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Field Sobriety Tests: What You Need to Know if Pulled Over for Suspected DUI in Colorado

Field Sobriety Tests: What You Need to Know if Pulled Over for Suspected DUI in Colorado

Understanding the significance and implications of field sobriety tests is paramount for drivers stopped by law enforcement officers under a suspected DUI.

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) serve as crucial tools utilized by law enforcement officers to assess potential impairment in individuals suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. Field sobriety tests are designed to gauge an individual’s coordination, balance, and cognitive function, which can be impaired by the consumption of alcohol and/or certain substances.

Understanding the significance and implications of field sobriety tests is paramount for drivers stopped by law enforcement officers under a suspected DUI. These tests often form a critical component of the evidence used in DUI cases, potentially influencing legal outcomes and consequences. Comprehending the nature and administration of field sobriety tests in Colorado is essential for individuals navigating a suspected DUI in Colorado. 

Understanding Field Sobriety Tests for Suspected DUI in Colorado

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are standardized assessments utilized by law enforcement officers to evaluate a driver’s level of impairment due to alcohol or drugs during a traffic stop. Field sobriety tests in Colorado aim to measure various physical and cognitive abilities that may be affected by intoxication, such as balance, coordination, and cognitive function. The results of field sobriety tests can provide officers with probable cause to arrest individuals with a suspected DUI and serve as evidence in subsequent legal proceedings. 

In Colorado, the administration and interpretation of Field Sobriety Tests are governed by specific legal guidelines and standards. Law enforcement officers are supposed to adhere to established protocols when conducting field sobriety tests to ensure the validity and reliability of the test results. Individuals stopped for suspected DUI have certain rights regarding field sobriety tests, including the option to refuse participation, though refusal may carry consequences.

Common Types of Field Sobriety Tests Administered in Colorado

Field sobriety tests are subjective in nature and a police officer’s opinion can hold a strong influence. It is important to remember that field sobriety tests are not perfect or particularly accurate, especially when completed in the dark outdoors. However, if you do consent to an FST, field sobriety tests can still significantly impact the outcome of your suspected DUI in Colorado. Understanding the types of field sobriety tests often administered can help you determine your best course of action (in addition to calling a DUI attorney) if you get pulled over for a suspected DUI. 

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN) 

The HGN test involves the observation of involuntary eye movements, known as nystagmus, as the individual’s eyes follow a stimulus (such as a pen or flashlight) horizontally. The presence and severity of nystagmus at specific angles can indicate impairment due to alcohol or certain drugs. 

Walk-and-Turn Test (WAT)

In the walk-and-turn test, the individual is instructed to walk a straight line heel-to-toe for a certain number of steps, then turn around and return in the same manner. Officers observe for indicators of impairment, such as difficulty maintaining balance or following instructions. 

One-Leg Stand Test

During the one-leg stand test, the individual is required to stand on one leg while raising the other foot off the ground for a specified duration, usually around 30 seconds. Officers assess the individual’s ability to maintain balance and follow instructions, which may be impaired by intoxication. 

Non-Impairment Factors That Can Affect Field Sobriety Test Results 

It’s important to acknowledge that field sobriety test evaluation involves a degree of subjectivity on the part of law enforcement officers. Despite standardized protocols for administering FSTs, interpretations of performance can vary among officers and may be influenced by individual biases or preconceptions.

Factors such as the officer’s training, experience, and personal beliefs about impairment can impact their assessment of field sobriety test performance. Subjective factors such as demeanor, attitude, and appearance may inadvertently influence an officer’s perception of an individual’s level of impairment during field sobriety test evaluation. The following factors can also affect field sobriety test results: 


Age can influence an individual’s performance on field sobriety tests. Older individuals may have natural declines in balance and coordination, which could affect their ability to perform certain field sobriety tests accurately. Conversely, younger individuals may have better physical capabilities but may still be susceptible to impairment from alcohol or drugs.

Physical Conditions

Pre-existing physical conditions, such as injuries, disabilities, or medical conditions affecting balance and mobility, can significantly impact an individual’s performance on field sobriety tests in Colorado. These conditions may cause difficulty with tasks that require coordination or stability, leading to potential misinterpretation of test results by law enforcement officers.

Environmental Factors

Environmental conditions, such as uneven terrain, poor lighting, adverse weather conditions, or distractions from passing traffic can affect the reliability of field sobriety test results. Suboptimal environmental conditions may hinder an individual’s ability to perform FSTs accurately, potentially leading to false indicators of impairment.

Understanding the potential for officer bias and subjectivity in field sobriety test evaluation underscores the importance of exercising one’s legal rights and seeking appropriate legal representation when facing suspected DUI charges. By being aware of these factors, individuals can better navigate encounters involving field sobriety tests in Colorado and mitigate the risk of unfair or inaccurate assessment of their impairment level.

What To Do After Being Stopped For Suspected DUI 

After being stopped for suspected DUI and undergoing field sobriety tests, it is imperative to seek legal representation as soon as possible. A qualified DUI defense attorney in Colorado can provide invaluable guidance and advocacy throughout the legal process. They can review the circumstances of the stop for a suspected DUI, evaluate the validity of field sobriety results, and formulate an effective defense strategy tailored to the individual’s case.

Individuals facing DUI charges in Colorado must comprehend the potential consequences of conviction, which can have far-reaching implications. These consequences may include fines, license suspension or revocation, mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs, probation, community service, and even imprisonment for repeat offenses or aggravated circumstances. DUI convictions can result in significant financial costs, damage to reputation, and professional consequences, so avoiding conviction tends to be the preferred course of action. 

In light of the potential severity of DUI charges, exploring options for defense and mitigation is essential. A skilled DUI defense attorney can assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case, identify potential defenses, and negotiate with prosecutors for reduced or dismissed charges or alternative sentencing options. Possible defense strategies may include challenging the validity of field sobriety test results, questioning the legality of the traffic stop, disputing chemical test results, or seeking suppression of evidence obtained unlawfully. 

Additionally, individuals may explore opportunities for mitigation, such as participation in alcohol treatment programs, community service, or plea bargaining for reduced penalties. By proactively addressing the legal ramifications of driving under the influence charges and collaborating with a DUI attorney in Colorado to develop a comprehensive defense strategy, individuals can work towards minimizing the negative consequences and safeguarding their rights and future prospects, despite being pulled over for a suspected DUI.  

Working With A DUI Attorney For A Suspected DUI

A skilled DUI defense attorney plays an important role in safeguarding one’s rights and future. If you find yourself confronted with DUI charges in Colorado, don’t face the legal process alone. With our team of experienced attorneys by your side, you can confidently confront the challenges ahead and work towards achieving the best possible outcome for your future. Take the first step toward securing your defense—reach out to the Colorado Defense Group today for expert DUI defense and advocacy tailored to your case.