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Do I Have to Submit to A Field Sobriety Test in A Texas DWI Stop?

The Collin County Law Group June 25, 2020

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a relatively common offense in Texas. Given how frequently people get pulled over and arrested for DWIs, there are a lot of myths floating around about what you can and can’t do during a DWI traffic stop.

Many people are quick to give advice about how to avoid a criminal charge if you’ve had a few drinks before you get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, advice often isn’t as sound as people claim it may be.

Sucking on a breath mint or holding a penny in your mouth will not trick a chemical breath test. More importantly, you should beware of the advice that claims there is zero consequence for refusing a chemical breath test.

You Consented to A Chemical Test when You Decided to Drive on Texas Roads

Parts of registering your car in Texas, securing a Texas driver’s license or driving on Texas roads involves a tacit agreement to comply with Texas law. The law in Texas is very clear that anyone driving on public roads has given implied consent to Chemical Testing to enforce impaired driving laws.

Provided that officers have reasonable suspicion of impairment, such as witnessing questionable driving or problematic behavior during a traffic stop, they have the right to request a chemical test. Officers cannot force someone to perform a chemical test, but refusing to do the test when requested is a violation of the implied consent law in Texas.

What Happens when You Break the Implied Consent Law and Refuse a Test?

Regardless of whether the state can or will convict you of an impaired driving offense, if you refuse a chemical test during a traffic stop, the officer will likely arrest you at that time due to the violation of the implied consent law. The penalty for that first violation is a suspension of your driver’s license for 180 days.

Refusing a Breath Test Won’t Prevent DWI Charges

Some people think of refusing a breath test as comparable to invoking their Fifth Amendment rights on the stand in court. The rights provided under the Fifth Amendment include the right against self-incrimination. You don’t have to make a statement to police, but you do have to comply with the implied consent law in order to retain your driving privileges.

It’s also worth noting that when you refuse to take a breath test, officers and the courts tend to view that as an admission of likely guilt. While they may not have a breath test to provide to the courts, officers may obtain a warrant to draw your blood to test for alcohol or other drugs while you are under arrest. They can also testify to the courts about your refusal to take the test and submit that as evidence of your knowledge of impairment.