Defense Attorney Offers Guidance to Colorado Drivers about Sobriety Tests
Driving yourself home after a night of drinking or after taking medications that impair your driving ability could result in your being pulled over. The officer who pulls you over may administer a field sobriety test to assess your level of impairment. Even if your blood or urine tests come back below the legal limit, how you perform on the field sobriety test could affect whether you are arrested or convicted of a DUI.
The Standardized Test
The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) was created and endorsed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). It consists of three tests that are theorized to determine a person’s impairment level.
These three tests include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: This is the jerking of an eye that happens when the eye gazes off to one side or the other. However, the jerking is worse when alcohol or another substance impairs someone. The officer will look at the eyes for an inability to follow the moving object, obvious eye jerking, and eye jerks at the 45-degree center mark.
- Walk and Turn Tests: This is the most common test seen on the side of the road. It helps determine if an impaired person can complete tasks with undivided attention. The suspect takes nine steps walking heel-to-toe. Then, they must follow a straight line, turn around on a single foot, and then return to the officer walking heel-to-toe in a straight line.
- One Leg Stand Test: A suspect is asked to stand on one leg with the other foot approximately six inches from the surface. Then, he or she must count for 30 seconds.
All three of these components, when compared to one another, are designed to predict impairment, and they carry a 91 percent success rate. However, suspects who fail are also administered a breathalyzer or blood test to verify the impairment.
Could You Refuse the Test?
Yes, but that does not mean you would avoid prosecution. The police do not need field sobriety tests or breathalyzer results to arrest a person for a DUI. Also, a person could be convicted of a DWAI or DUI without the tests, but rather based solely on an officer’s statement to the court. Refusing to take the test results in an automatic driver’s license suspension.
Combating the Field Sobriety Tests
While they are meant to be effective, there are instances when a person could fail these tests and not be under the influence of anything. Individuals with poor balance, for example, would have difficulty walking a straight line anyway.
There are always defenses to the field sobriety test results, and a good criminal defense attorney knows how to use those arguments to benefit his or her client.
If you have been arrested solely on the field sobriety test results, and your breathalyzer came back negative, you must contact an attorney immediately. You could still be convicted regardless of the results; therefore, an attorney must step in to help.