If you’ve been pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, the police may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. However, these are not required by law and you can politely refuse. Here’s what you need to know about field sobriety tests and your rights.
In Colorado, field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a tool that enforcement officers use to determine if a person is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Officers in Colorado use three main types of FSTs:
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus test
- The walk-and-turn test
- The one-leg stand test
For the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the driver must follow an object (usually a pen or flashlight) with their eyes while keeping their head still. The officer is looking for three things: involuntary eye movement (nystagmus), inability to smoothly follow the moving object, and jerking while tracking the object near the outer edge of the eye.
The walk-and-turn test requires the driver to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line, turn on one foot, and then walk back. The officer is looking for eight clues of intoxication, including whether the driver can keep balance while listening to instructions, begins before being told to start, stops walking before being told to stop, fails to touch heel-to-toe, fails to walk on the line, uses arms for balance, makes a wrong turn, or fails to take the correct number of steps.
For the one-leg stand test, the driver must stand with one foot approximately 6 inches off the ground and count out loud until told to stop. The officer times the driver for 30 seconds and looks for four clues of intoxication:
- Using arms to keep balance
- Hopping to prevent falling
- Putting the foot down
You Are Not Required To Submit to Field Sobriety Tests
While you do not have to submit to an FST in Colorado, refusing to do so may result in the officer arresting you and requiring you to submit to a chemical test, such as a blood or breath test, at the police station. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, your license will be automatically suspended for one year and upon reinstatement, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for two years.
Should You Take A Field Sobriety Test If Stopped For DUI in Colorado?
If you’ve been stopped on suspicion of DUI in Colorado, you may be asked to submit to one or more field sobriety tests. These tests are voluntary, so you can decline to take them without penalty—but should you?
There is no easy answer regarding field sobriety tests in Colorado. On the one hand, if you refuse to take an FST, it cannot be used against you in court; on the other hand, if you do take an FST and fail it spectacularly, that evidence can and will be used against you by prosecutors.
The Pros of Taking Field Sobriety Tests
One of the main pros of taking field sobriety tests is that they can help prove your innocence. For example, if you pass the tests with flying colors, the officer may decide not to arrest you or administer a chemical test. Additionally, even if you do poorly on aspects of the tests, an experienced DUI attorney may be able to use your performance on the tests to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case against you.
The Cons of Taking Field Sobriety Tests
Even if you haven’t been drinking, you may still fail a field sobriety test due to anxiety, nerves, or an illness. If you fail the tests, the officer will likely arrest you and ask you to take a chemical test.
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI and need help, contact us today to schedule a consultation.