blog Drug Crime DUI Do I Have to Do Field Sobriety Tests in Colorado?

Do I Have to Do Field Sobriety Tests in Colorado?

By Colorado Attorney-at-law on May 1, 2022

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) in Colorado are one of the main tools police officers use to determine whether a person is driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, field sobriety tests are not always reliable, and many drivers are unaware of their rights when requested to perform one.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) or while your ability was impaired (DWAI) in Colorado, call the skilled defense lawyers at Whitaker & Penix, LLC at (970) 368-0602 as soon as possible. We will ensure your rights are upheld and defend you with rigor.

Different Types of Sobriety Tests

In Colorado, officers use three SFST methods established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to determine whether a person is driving whilst under the influence or with impaired ability. These three methods and their potential flaws are highlighted below.

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): In this test, the officer asks the driver to follow an object side-to-side with their eyes. If they are intoxicated, nystagmus (involuntary jerking of the eyes) will occur more drastically at smaller peripheral angles. However, a number of factors can cause unusual nystagmus activity, including some prescription medications, stress, or exhaustion.
  2. Walk-and-Turn (WAT): In a walk-and-turn test, the driver must walk in a straight line, placing each foot directly in front of the other, turn on one foot, and walk back again. This is a divided-attention task, where the officers score the driver’s balance, memory, and muscle control. Unstable balance, incorrectly following instructions or struggling to keep the steps small all indicate potential intoxication. But being overweight, having injuries or balance problems, or simply forgetting the instructions can also affect a person’s ability to perform this task.
  3. One-Leg Stand (OLS): In the one-leg stand test, the driver stands with their feet together and their arms at their sides, raises one foot six inches off the ground and must keep both legs straight whilst they hold this position and count in a prescribed manner. Difficulty counting or losing your balance may indicate intoxication. However, other factors, including injuries, poor balance, and neurological disorders may impair a person’s ability to pass the OLS test.

Refusing a Sobriety Test

Many drivers stopped by police and requested to perform a field sobriety test don’t realize they are voluntary and may legally decline this type of testing. Due to the flaws in the SFSTs mentioned above, lawyers recommend drivers refuse these tests to prevent false arrests or potentially flawed evidence being used against them. If you decline a SFST, do so politely but clearly. Avoid escalating the situation and simply advise that you prefer not to perform these tests.

Notably, whilst a driver can legally refuse a SFST, drivers must perform chemical tests (breath, urine, or blood tests) upon the officer’s request, or penalties may apply. All drivers must comply when asked to provide their name and driver’s license by an officer.

Facing a DUI Charge?

There is a range of penalties for driving whilst your ability is impaired or under the influence in Colorado. These include criminal penalties such as fines or imprisonment, and penalties imposed by the Colorado Department of Revenue or DMV, such as a license suspension.

As these consequences can be grave, having a skilled defense attorney is crucial. The passionate defense attorneys at Whitaker & Penix, LLC, with experience on the “other side” as former prosecutors, know how to present you with the strongest defense possible. Call us today at (970) 368-0602 for a free consultation.

Posted in: Drug Crime, DUI