The Flaws in Roadside Sobriety Tests

There are flaws in roadside sobriety tests | Attorney Steven LouthRoadside sobriety tests are an evidence collection technique used to determine probable cause for arresting a potentially alcohol-impaired motorist. Law enforcement officers want you to take these tests because they know the best evidence of alcohol impairment is a bad performance on a field sobriety test.

If you are stopped and questioned for DUI, you have an obligation to be polite to the officer, but not to take a field sobriety test- they are voluntary. There are many flaws in roadside sobriety tests. They are highly subjective and will almost always be used against you by the prosecution. Law enforcement officers want you to attempt roadside agility or sobriety evaluations because these tests can be used later in a courtroom to secure a conviction.

There are several tactics used by law enforcement to determine alcohol impairment. However, the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Evaluation. In this test, a police officer will evaluate your eye movements as your gaze follows the movement of an object in his/her hand, usually a penlight or finger. The officer is looking for particular jerking motions of your eye, which are supposed to be indicative of alcohol or drug impairment.
  • Walk and Turn Evaluation. The officer will ask you to walk nine steps heel to toe, turn 180 degrees, and then walk back nine steps heel to toe.
  • One-leg Stand Evaluation. You will be asked to stand on one foot while raising the other foot 6 inches from the ground and count 1001, 1002, 1003…, and so on until the officer instructs you to quit.

Field sobriety tests are undoubtedly the most significant source of faulty arrests and convictions in DUI cases in the United States. The tests are biased because they are designed as one-size-fits-all evaluations. They don’t take into account a person’s anxiety over being stopped, muscle fatigue, or how long they’ve been awake. Furthermore, the tests do not allow for differences in height, weight, coordination, or medical issues.

The tests were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with a very low degree of scientific correlation, and have not been properly reviewed by peers. In fact, independent researchers have consistently documented that more than 95% of the time standardized field sobriety tests were administered or scored incorrectly by trained police officers.

In Colorado, an officer must establish probable cause before arresting you and demanding that you take a chemical sobriety test. The most common way to do this is through poor performance on field sobriety tests. Understanding that these test are voluntary is an important first step to protecting your rights. Consulting an experienced Colorado DUI defense attorney is the second.

Contact a Boulder DUI Defense Attorney

Boulder Criminal Defense Attorney Steven LouthIf you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Boulder or anywhere in the State of Colorado, you need an experienced Boulder DUI Defense attorney on your side from the very start. Contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 or contact us through our website to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges.

Posted in Blog, Boulder, DUI/DWAI


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