Why You Should Never Take a Roadside Sobriety Test in Colorado
A field sobriety tests (FST) consists of three tasks an officer may ask you to perform. This is typically requested after a driver has been pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). Drivers in Colorado are under no legal obligation to take an FST, and we strongly recommend that you politely decline any roadside tests by saying, “I would prefer not to.”
Taking an FST cannot help you in any way, but it can be used against you in a court of law. An FST is a legally questionable way to tell if a suspect is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
You should remember, though, that there ARE legal consequences for refusing a take a CHEMICAL (breath, blood, urine) sobriety test in Colorado.
What You Should Say to the Officer Who Pulls You Over
At Peters & Nolan, LLC, we recommend that you always maintain a cordial and professional demeanor when interacting with a police office. As a driver in Colorado, you are legally required to state your name and show them your driver’s license. Anything beyond that is a courtesy. But again, we recommend that you interact with the officer in a professional manner.
The Three Parts of an FST?
A field sobriety test typically has three parts: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk and Turn (WAT),
and One Leg Stand (OLS). This is always voluntary in Colorado. These three tests are not remotely scientific, far from conclusive, and frequently administered in an arbitrary manner.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
HGN stands for Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the involuntary jerking of the eye when a person follows a moving object from side to side. An HGN is exaggerated by alcohol consumption and can therefore be used as evidence that a person is under the influence.
In this test, the officer has you stand with your hands at your sides. Then they ask you to maintain your focus on an object such as a penlight as they pass it back and forth across your field of vision. If you are unable to track the object smoothy, or if your eyes make any sudden jerks, the officer may use this as evidence of impairment by alcohol or drugs.
An HGN test is highly subjective and unfair to the driver in several ways. For one thing, the results of the test are entirely dependent on the officer’s personal judgment. Also, there is no advanced scientific equipment to verify any findings from an HGN, leaving the driver’s results from this test completely in the hands of one person’s fallible discretion.
Another reason why an HGN is a very questionable indicator of sobriety is that there are additional factors that may skew the results. For example, harmless substances such as caffeine, nicotine, and even aspirin have been known to induce an HGN.
Legitimate medical conditions such as eye diseases, inner ear conditions, neurological disorders such as epilepsy, glaucoma, and cardiovascular disease can also trigger an HGN. Additional circumstances that can lead to a false HGN reading include vitamin deficiencies, extreme temperatures, fatigue, and changes in barometric pressure.
Walk and Turn (WAT)
In this test, the driver is asked to take nine steps in a straight line, then turn on one foot and return, walking heel-to-toe the whole time. The officer will judge your performance based on several objectives that include:
- Starting too soon
- Using your arms for balance
- Not turning exactly as stipulated
- Maintaining your balance at all times
- Not walking in a perfectly straight line
- Taking an “incorrect” number of steps
- Stopping to collect yourself at any time
- Not completely touching your heel or your toe to the ground
As you can see, this task involves series complex movements that anyone might have difficulty performing without practice. And you may be asked to perform a WAT on uneven roadside terrain that could include physical obstructions.
There are many independent factors that may hamper your ability to successfully negotiate a WAT, including being overweight, having mobility issues, problems with or injuries to your feet, wearing the wrong type of shoes, or balancing issues which could also be related to a medical condition such as an ear infection.
One Leg Stand (OLS)
During the OLS test, the driver is required to stand with one foot held about six inches above the ground while counting “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three…” aloud until the officer tells you to stop. This would be a very difficult chore for anyone because it involves your balance, and you are being asked to concentrate on two different skills at the same time.
During the OLS, swaying, hopping, balancing, using your arms, or putting your foot down before 30 seconds has passed are all seen as indicators of drug or alcohol impairment. Most people would have trouble performing an OLS test under the best circumstances, and it’s extremely unfair to expect anyone to do it perfectly on the side of the road with other motorists passing by.
Just like the WAT, the OLS test is subject to many arbitrary conditions. For example, high-heeled shoes, balancing issues, and a number of physical and medical issues could make it extremely difficult perform an OLS test.
Call Peters & Nolan, LLC, if You Get Arrested for a DUI
If you have been arrested for DUI in Colorado, you face heavy fines, the loss of driving privileges, and serious jail time. Andrew J. Peters and Andrew J. Nolan have over 40 years of combined experience practicing DUI law. We will do everything we can to protect your freedom. Call Peters & Nolan, LLC, today at (970) 243-4357.
Peters & Nolan, LLC is your ideal source for high quality legal representation throughout the state of Colorado. Known for being personable and responsive, attorneys Andrew J. Peters and Andrew Nolan are aggressive trial lawyers with an excellent record of trying and settling cases in criminal defense, DUI/DWAI and personal injury.
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