Field Sobriety Tests in Colorado
Standardized Field Sobriety Testing in DUI Stops
Under Colorado’s express consent law, drivers are required by law to provide a chemical sample for testing in a DUI arrest. Breath and blood chemical testing will help an officer determine if a driver is intoxicated. However, those tests are not the only tasks you will be asked to complete. Field sobriety tests are a common component of DUI stops and a typical cause of arrests.
The standardized field sobriety test (SFST) is a battery of three tests that law enforcement officers use to determine if a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs. DUIs are strictly prohibited in most states, and Colorado is among the harshest states when it comes to penalizing those convicted of DUI. But in order to determine if there is probable cause to make a DUI arrest, officers utilize SFSTs to measure a driver’s judgment and coordination.
If you were arrested after “failing” one or more SFST, call the Law Office of Kevin R. Churchill at (970) 238-2982 to learn how a DUI defense lawyer at the firm can defend you.
Types of Field Sobriety Tests
Officers may utilize both standardized and non-standardized field sobriety tests to determine if you are intoxicated. The SFST battery consists of the following three tests:
Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test: Measures involuntary jerking of the eyes, occurring as the eyes gaze towards the side. According to studies, this is the most reliable SFST, approximately 88%. In an HGN test, an officer will instruct you to follow a specific object, such as the tip of a pen, penlight or pencil, with your eyes. From there, the officer will look for:
- Lack of smooth pursuit
- Distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation
- The onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees
One-leg stand (OLS) test: A divided attention test that measures your mental and physical task ability. The OLS is about 83% accurate. An officer will tell you to stand with one leg lifted about 6 inches above the ground and count out loud (one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.). The officer will look for:
- Swaying while balancing
- Using your arms to balance
- Putting your foot down
Walk-and-turn (WAT) test: About 79% reliable, this divided attention testmeasures your mental and physical task ability. The WAT requires you to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn and do nine heel-to-toe steps again.The officer will look for:
- Inability to balance
- Starting the test too soon
- Missing heel-to-toe
- Using your arms to balance
- Stepping off the line
At their discretion, an officer may require you to subject to non-standardized field sobriety tests, including:
- Rhomberg balance test
- Finger-to-nose test
- Finger tap test
- Hand pat test
- Number backward test
Issues with SFSTs
Field sobriety tests, both standardized and non-standardized, examine a person’s ability to operate like a normal person. However, people do not stand on one leg and walk heel-to-toe in their everyday lives, therefore it’s nearly impossible to determine if a driver failed their FST for alcohol or drug-related reasons. A sober person could “fail” their field sobriety tests for these reasons, therefore an officer cannot accurately gauge whether a driver is under the influence or not.
Several factors may hinder your ability to successfully complete SFSTs and non-standardized FSTs. They include:
- Underlying medical conditions
- Roadside terrains
- Poor instructions
- Improper footwear
Need Trustworthy DUI Defense in Fort Collins?
Failing your field sobriety tests is not an indicator of guilt for DUI, therefore you should not be discouraged by your charges. Many things can go wrong during a DUI stop, and field sobriety tests are simply not a normal part of our everyday lives. If a sober person can fail them, anyone can. Thus, you should fight to protect your freedom, finances and driving privileges by retaining a Fort Collins DUI defense lawyer at the Law Office of Kevin R. Churchill.
Your chances of getting your DUI charges reduced or dropped altogether will significantly increase with the help of knowledgeable and experienced DUI defense lawyer. Waste no time and get started on your case by contacting (970) 238-2982!