Field sobriety tests are observational tools used by law enforcement officers in Colorado to assess whether a driver is operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. As much as they can lead to arrests, these tests can be inaccurate and lead to an unfounded DUI charge. While it is important to follow the directions of a police officer, you have certain rights that they should respect.
Common roadside tests
The most common tests officers use to determine alcohol or drug impairment are the horizontal gaze nystagmus maneuver, walk and turn maneuver, and the one legged stand maneuver. The horizontal gaze maneuver is the test whereby an officer holds a stimulus such as their finger or a pen in front of your face and makes you follow the stimulus with your eyes. During this test, the officer is looking for an involuntary jerking of your eyes caused by alcohol consumption. The walk and turn maneuver is the test people are often familiar with whereby an officer instructs you to take 9 steps forward along an imaginary line, make a small pivoting turn, and then take 9 steps back along an imaginary line. The one legged stand maneuver is a balancing test whereby an officer makes you stand on one leg while counting to 30. These test are not pass/fail tests and your performance is based solely on the subjective opinion of the officer conducting the tests; therefore, it is important to hire an experienced DUI attorney to challenge the validity of the tests.
Flaws in the tests
To conduct a field sobriety test, the police officer must ensure that the lighting is adequate, the ground is level, the instructions are clear, and the time frame for conducting the test is appropriate. They must also have training and certification in administering the tests. You can challenge the results if they didn’t meet some or any of these conditions.
Medical conditions or disabilities
The government designed roadside sobriety tests are for individuals without any medical conditions or disabilities. People with injuries to their legs or hips, back problems, anxiety and panic attacks, inner ear conditions and others can easily fail these tests and end up with a DUI. If you have any medical issues, let the police officer know before beginning the test and cite that as a reason for not complying with their requests.
Refusal of testing
If you refuse to perform a field sobriety test, the police officer should respect your decision and provide alternatives for determining sobriety, such as breathalyzer tests. It’s illegal for them to coerce, threaten or force you to take the test. In most cases, it is in your best interest to decline to perform any roadside sobriety tests.
A DUI charge can affect all aspects of your life, from your freedom to your ability to get a job or a house in Colorado. If there’s any defense you can use to dismiss the case or, at the very least, reduce the charges, it could save you from harsh punishments.