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Should you comply if Colorado police request field sobriety test?

Posted on July 26, 2018

If you’re like most Colorado drivers, you’ll likely experience a traffic stop at some point in your driving career. Perhaps you’ve already had to pay a fine or two in the past for traveling a bit over a posted speed limit or some other minor infraction. If a police officer pulls you over, it’s understandable your stress level will immediately rise. In certain circumstances, such as if the officer asks if you’ve been drinking, fear might set in as well.

A common way police try to determine if they have probable cause to make a drunk driving arrest is to conduct field sobriety tests. This involves a verbal request for you to do so and your verbal compliance as well. The question is: Should you comply? This post provides information that may help you determine a best course of action if you find yourself on the side of a road with a police officer waiting for you to answer yes or no in response to a request for you to take a field sobriety test.

You are not under obligation to comply 

While it may be logical to assume that your chances for a positive outcome increase if you cooperate with the Colorado police officer who has pulled you over, you’ll want to make a cautious decision when discerning whether or not to take a field sobriety test. First of all, you are not legally obliged to comply with the officer’s request. Also, many sober people fail such tests, then face DUI arrests.

If those people had refused to take the tests, things might have turned out differently. Many experienced legal advocates say it is better to refuse and ask for permission to secure legal representation than risk failing a field test and facing arrest. There are no legal consequences nor administrative penalties for non-compliance regarding field sobriety tests.

The officer likely already thinks you’re drunk

Remember that a drunk driving arrest typically results after a two-fold process. The officer must have reasonable cause to stop you. Beyond that, he or she must determine probable cause to make a DUI arrest. This often means if an officer requests that you take a field sobriety test, he or she stopped you because of a drunk driving suspicion.

Scoring your test involves a high level of personal opinion, meaning the officer making the observations is also the one determining your score. If he or she already things you’re drunk, it may influence test results.

Various conditions may impede your ability to test well 

Do you consider yourself a clumsy person? If so, you might have a problem performing well on a one-leg stance field sobriety test, especially when you already feel nervous because of the situation. You may not have consumed any alcohol before driving, but if you tend to trip over your own two feet, you could fail this test if you can’t balance on one leg for 30 seconds or more.

Numerous health conditions can also negatively affect your ability to test well. Eyesight impairments can cause you to bomb a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. A past sports or car accident injury can make the walk-and-turn test extremely difficult to perform.

Your options

You may decide it’s best to comply with the police officer’s request to take a field sobriety test and simply hope for the best after that. You may exert your right to refuse to take the test, then ask for legal support. The bottom line is that, if you are aware of your rights and know how to protect them, you can be hopeful that you will at least be able to mitigate your circumstances, if not avoid conviction or arrest altogether.