Field Sobriety Test
Under Colorado law, field sobriety tests are used by law enforcement personnel in the field as a pre-screening to determine if a suspect is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Colorado, field sobriety tests are not mandatory in some circumstances, unlike urine, breathalyzers, or blood tests. Therefore, an individual cannot be penalized for refusing to take a field sobriety test. The only information a suspect must provide an officer during a suspected driving under the influence traffic stop is their name, license, and registration. If the officer requests a legally mandatory test, there may be penalties such as an automatic license suspension if the suspect refuses to comply.
If the suspect agrees to do the field sobriety test and fails based on the above factors that the officers are trained to look for, the field sobriety test may be entered as evidence against the suspect during their trial.
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Three standardized tests are generally used:
- Walk a line: During this test, the suspect will be instructed to walk in a straight line with their arms at their side, putting one foot in front of the other. This test puts individuals in an unnatural gait and does not consider a number of other factors that could make it difficult for someone to pass this test. During this test, officers are trained to look for eight potential signs that someone is intoxicated, including:
- They cannot keep their balance while listening to instructions.
- They start walking before they are instructed.
- They stop walking before they are instructed.
- They do not touch heel to toe while walking.
- They step off of the line they are instructed to walk on.
- They use their arms for balance instead of keeping them at their sides.
- They make an improper turn.
- They take the incorrect number of steps.
- Stand on one foot: During this test, the suspect will be instructed to stand on one foot, sometimes for up to one minute. This test also does not consider that an average individual may find it difficult to stand on one leg for a full minute without losing balance. During this test, the officer will be looking for:
- The suspect swayed while attempting to balance.
- The suspect uses their arms to balance instead of keeping them at their side.
- The suspect hops in an attempt to find their balance.
- The suspect puts their foot down before they are instructed to stop.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: During this test, the officer will likely shine a bright light in the suspect’s eyes and instruct them to follow a pen. The officers are trained to look for shaking eyes and cannot smoothly track the stimulus. If either occurs, the officer likely will arrest the individual for driving under the influence.
An experienced criminal defense attorney may use several potential defenses because field sobriety tests are evidence of impairment, not proof like a blood test or urine test. Some examples of defenses as to why someone failed a field sobriety test may include but are not limited to:
- A medical condition or medication that did not affect the person driving.
- Mobility issues.
- Weight issues.
- Uneven ground.
- Poor visibility at the test site.
- The level of tiredness affected eye reaction to stimulus.
- The officer was not adequately trained to perform the field sobriety test.
- The officer was inexperienced in performing field sobriety tests.
- The officer could not correctly see the suspect’s eyes to determine if they were shaking or unable to follow the stimulus.
- The field sobriety test instructions were not clearly given, resulting in confusion.
- The suspect wore attire that affected their ability to stand or walk, such as heels or tight clothing.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website provides more information on driving while under the influence detection and standardized field sobriety tests.
Field Sobriety Testing Resource: The Field Sobriety Testing Resource website provides more information on standard and non-standard field sobriety tests, their history, and their accuracy.
Denver Field Sobriety Test Attorney
If you have been arrested for a DUI offense and wish to contest the results of a field sobriety test, it is in your best interest to retain a proven drunk driving lawyer in Colorado. Working with an experienced attorney can improve the likelihood of having your case dismissed, charges decreased, and/or lessened penalties. Allow criminal defense attorney Matthew Martin at Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. can skillfully represent you.
Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. accepts traffic cases throughout the Denver area and surrounding counties such as Douglas County, Jefferson County, Boulder County, Broomfield County, and Adams County. Call (303) 725-0017 to set up a confidential consultation with Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. today.