Field Sobriety Tests in Colorado

Even if you have never been pulled over on suspicion of DUI, you are likely aware of some of the tests that a police officer may perform in order to measure whether a driver is impaired. These field sobriety tests are routine in the state of Colorado, and in most states, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established and standardized these tests over the last several years.

The “Walk-and-Turn” Test

This test primarily measures a person’s ability to multi-task, or perform two different activities at once. More specifically, the officer directs the person to walk a certain number of steps forward and in a straight line, and then turn and walk back in a straight line. The theory behind this test is that an unimpaired person is able to perform these tasks properly, whereas an impaired person will not be able to do so. However, there may be other reasons that a person has poor balance, other than impairment by alcohol or drugs. As a result, these test results are inaccurate approximately one out of five times.

The “One-Leg Stand” Test

Like the “walk-and-turn” test, the “one-leg stand” test measures one’s ability to perform two different physical tasks at the same time. During this test, the individual must stand on one leg and count out loud. Again, there is the potential for inaccuracy in this type of test, just as there in the “walk-and-turn” test.

The “Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus” Test

The reasoning behind this test is the fact that a person’s eye tends to make jerking movements when he or she attempts to use peripheral vision. When a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, however, his or her eyes will jerk even when attempting to look straight ahead. The officer will hold a finger or object in front of the individual’s eyes, and ask him or her to follow it as it moves from side to side. The theory is that the individual will have difficulty following that object if he or she is impaired.

Validity of Field Sobriety Testing

Although the NHTSA touts the validity of field sobriety testing, there are environmental and personal factors that can adversely influence the results of these tests. Although the horizontal gaze nystagmus test has stood up well to validity testing, the other field sobriety tests have not. Improper administration by the officer conducting the field sobriety test, poor weather such as wind, rain, ice, and snow, medication influence, and other similar factors all may impact the outcome of these tests. As a result, even if you fail the tests, your Colorado DUI attorney may be able to build a strong defense on your behalf based on the other factors that could have affected the test results.

Call a Denver Drunk Driving Attorney Today for Help 

The Tiftickjian Law Firm focuses our efforts on representing clients who have been accused of DUI or related charges. Given the potential severity of the penalties for drunk driving in Colorado, you should contact a qualified Denver DUI attorney right away to handle the charges against you. Contact our office today by calling (303) DUI-5280 or use our online contact form to speak with us and schedule your consultation.

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