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Things to know about a Colorado walk-and-turn test

Posted on May 5, 2019

If you’ve ever had to pull off the road because a police car with flashing lights was traveling directly behind you, you understand how stressful such situations can be. Many Colorado drivers have gotten speeding tickets or, perhaps, received instructions to get a taillight fixed. Other situations are a lot more troubling, such as if a police officer approaches your window and asks you to step out of your car.

If this happens, it’s usually because the officer in question suspects the driver of drunk driving or some other crime. While police detain you on the side of the road, a million thoughts might run through your mind, including whether or not you should comply if they ask you to take a walk-and-turn test. Knowing your rights ahead of time and where to seek support to help you exercise them may lead to mitigation of your circumstances.

The purpose of a walk-and-turn test

The Colorado police officer who pulled you over must have had a logical reason for doing so. For instance, if he or she clocked your vehicle traveling above a posted speed limit, it is reason to make a traffic stop. If the officer claims that your car veered over a yellow line or that you were exhibiting other driving behavior that was erratic or suspicious, it is reasonable that a stop might occur.

To make an arrest, however, the police officer must have probable cause. Cops often use the walk-and-turn test to determine if probable cause exists to take a driver into custody on suspicion of drunk driving.

How it works

When taking a walk-and-turn test, a patrol officer will often ask you to walk a straight line in one direction, then turn around and repeat your actions in the opposite direction. To increase the challenge, he or she may instruct you to hold your arms out at shoulder length the entire time and to place the heels of one foot at the toes of the other with every step you take.

The walk-and-turn is not a very accurate test

Insofar as determining whether a person has been drinking too much alcohol, the walk-and-turn test is only about 66% reliable. Let’s face it. There are many sober people who would have trouble walking a straight line with arms outstretched and heels-to-toes while a police officer is staring at them, and while they know they might face arrest if they perform poorly.

The bottom line is that you may indeed be under arrest if the patrol officer gives you a failing grade. That’s why it’s important to remember that you are under no legal or administrative obligation to take such tests. Refusal is not a just cause for arrest, and you will not incur any type of legal penalty or administrative repercussion, such as license suspension.

If you take the test and fail

Many Colorado drivers think it’s best to cooperate and take a walk-and-turn test rather than refuse and possibly cause additional problems for themselves down the line. Prosecutors often use the fact that someone refused against him or her in court. If you face arrest for suspected drunk driving, you can take immediate steps to build as strong a defense as possible. The first logical step that most defendants make is to request a meeting with an experienced criminal defense attorney.