If law enforcement stops you on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI), the officer may ask you to take a field sobriety test.
What does this kind of high-stakes test involve, particularly for college students, and does Colorado law require you to take it?
3 field tests that Colorado police may use
There are three tests in the Standardized Field Sobriety Test battery:
- The one-leg stand: Raise one leg six inches off the ground and count out loud from 1000 until the officer tells you to stop.
- Walk-and-turn: Take nine heel-to-toe steps out and nine back, looking down at your feet and counting out loud.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN): Follow an object the officer holds up with your eyes only, not moving your head.
Reasons for failing
Police officers usually conduct field sobriety tests on the side of the road. The ground may be uneven, noisy traffic may be passing by, and the flashing lights on the patrol car can be disconcerting.
In addition to these distractions, there are physical and mental reasons for refusing to take these tests. A neurological condition may cause you to fail the HGN. The medications you are taking, your arthritis, or the ear infection you have may make passing the One-Leg Stand or the Walk-and-Turn difficult. Officers should not ask people over 50 pounds overweight or over 65 to take this battery of tests.
Under Colorado law, you are not required to take a field sobriety test, but you may have consented—and failed. Was there a logical reason for you not to pass the field sobriety test battery? Did the law enforcement officer even have probable cause to arrest you? A skilled criminal defense attorney can build a strong defense strategy based on the circumstances of your arrest. You have a right to anticipate the best outcome possible for your case.