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Can being overweight affect your field sobriety test?

In Texas, if you are arrested for drinking while intoxicated, you are required by the "implied consent" law to take a blood or breath test to determine blood alcohol content. If you refuse, your license will be suspended for 180 days for a first offense. Before the officer arrests you, you may be subjected to a field sobriety test. This test generally includes three elements:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) - This test looks for an involuntary twitch when a person looks sideways at an angle. It is a general indicator of intoxication, not a pass/fail test.
  • Walk and turn (WAT) - This test is when you walk heel-to-toe for nine steps, then turn on one foot and walk back.
  • One leg stand (OLS) - In this test, you stand on one foot, with the other foot about six inches off the ground with your toe pointed. You hold this position for 30 seconds.

The Texas District & County Attorneys Association gives a review of the standard field sobriety test. The officer should take into account any medical conditions, your age and other factors at the time of the test. Fatigue, although it does not affect your ability to perform the tests, should be considered. Weight is not a factor in the HGN test.

Back and leg problems may your ability to perform the WAT. Generally, weight is not an issue during this test, but the officer should make sure that you can perform the test safely if you are overweight. Inner ear issues and age can also have a significant effect on your ability to walk and turn.

The same factors that affect the ability to perform the WAT can also affect the ability to perform the OLS. In addition, this is affected by a person's weight. If you are more than 50 pounds overweight, you might have difficulty performing this part of the FST. However, the TDCAA recommends that all three tests be performed, even if weight or age is a consideration.

Avoiding a DWI

The best way to avoid a DWI arrest is to be aware of how much you are drinking before you drive. Call a friend or a taxi to get home when you are not sure what your blood alcohol content is. Many people misjudge the effect alcohol has. If you are arrested for a DWI, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced attorney to understand all the consequences of your situation to find the best possible outcome. A DWI in Texas can affect you for a long time, even if it is your first offense.

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