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What are field sobriety tests?

Posted on October 13, 2020

In Colorado, an officer may administer tests if they suspect you are driving under the influence. In some cases, a breath test may come first. But you are also likely to run into a field sobriety test.

Officers use these tests to determine if further testing should follow. They are a tool of measurement you should familiarize yourself with.

Standardized and non-standardized tests provide detailed information on field sobriety tests and their purpose. There are two types: standardized and non-standardized. Non-standardized does not see as much use due to the room for potential officer bias. Standardized field sobriety tests have a rubric that all law enforcement officials must follow. This helps eliminate some bias.

Because of the strict rules of standardization, there are only three types of standardized field sobriety tests. They include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-legged stand and the walk-and-turn. By comparison, there are many non-standardized field sobriety tests. Some examples include reciting the alphabet backwards or counting down from 100.

The purpose of field sobriety testing

All field sobriety tests check your ability to hear, process and follow instructions. Some test your physical capabilities with a particular focus on balance and dexterity. Others, like the horizontal gaze nystagmus, check for the physical signs of alcohol use.

While administering these tests, officers may also keep an eye out for probable causes to arrest. These are clues in your behavior or appearance that may give an officer reason to believe you are under the influence. Examples include red eyes and slurred speech.

However, none of these things act as solid, condemning evidence in court. This is crucial to keep in mind in case you take and fail a field sobriety test.