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Texas immigrants and field sobriety tests: Things you should know

As someone who emigrated from another country of origin to live in Texas, you may have found aspects of life in the U.S. a bit strange at first. Sports, family customs, religious events and even traffic rules and regulations may be peculiar to someone who has lived in another country all their life.  

Overcoming a language barrier and adapting to life in the United States can be challenging. Certain situations can be frightening -- like if a police officer pulls you over and asks you to step out of your car. The officer might think you were driving while intoxicated. If drunk driving is suspected, the officer may ask you to take a field sobriety test. Knowing your legal rights and understanding how to protect them may save you a lot of anguish. 

Three tests you don't want to fail 

If you happen to be an immigrant whose paperwork is not in order and a police officer arrests you for drunk driving and/or driving without a license, you may be at risk for immediate deportation. In that case, the help of a knowledgeable attorney will be needed right away.

Following a traffic stop, the officer may first ask to you take one or more of the following three tests: 

  • A police officer may ask you to take a walk-and-turn test to determine if he or she has probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of drunk driving. This test involves walking a straight line by placing the heel of one foot at the toes of the other while holding your arms at shoulder length to each side.  
  • You may also take a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Intoxicated people's eyes often jerk erratically before reaching their maximum peripheral vision points while tracking objects left to right or up and down.  
  • The one-leg stand is another field sobriety test. An officer may ask you to stand on one leg while counting out loud by thousands or tens, or perhaps while reciting the alphabet, which could pose a problem if you are still struggling to speak English.  

Should the officer claim that you fail any one of these tests, it may be all they need to make an arrest. Keep in mind that such situations may come down to a police officer's word against yours. You should also be aware that you are not obligated to comply with an officer's request to take a field sobriety test; there are no legal or administrative penalties for refusing. However, prosecutors often use the fact that defendants refused field sobriety tests against them in court.  

Help is available 

You have the right to request legal representation if a police officer, state trooper or sheriff's deputy detains you during a traffic stop. In fact, you do not have to answer any questions beyond basic identification information and vehicle registration information unless and until you have secured legal guidance.

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