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Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test in Colorado?


When any of us is driving around, little else is less welcoming than seeing a police officer’s red and blue lights in the rear-view mirror. It’s normal to feel a little nervous in this situation, especially if you aren’t sure why you’re being pulled over. Nonetheless, your anxiety about the situation will probably elevate if the police officer asks you to perform a field sobriety test.

Field sobriety tests have been around since the early 1980s. They were the result of a half-decade of research on how police officers could test people under suspicion for impaired driving. The result was a standard trio of tests: walking and turning, standing on one leg, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (essentially looking to see if someone’s eye can smoothly follow an object).

Although millions of Americans can remember a time before these tests existed, millions more can’t and grew up in a time when they were a fact of life. The thing is, though, is that most people don’t know that field sobriety tests are completely optional. More pointedly: You can decline to submit to a field sobriety test without incurring any penalties. Not only are these tests optional, but you should never agree to one.

Why You Should Refuse to Submit to a Field Sobriety Test

While there are the three standard field sobriety tests, police officers might ask a suspect to perform additional tasks. One of these, infamously, is the backward recitation of the Alphabet – something that even completely sober people can struggle to do.

Therein lays the problem with field sobriety tests, though: They aren’t scientific in their design and they aren’t being conducted by an unbiased party. If your knee injury caused you to stumble during the walk-and-turn test or your anxiety causes your eyes to twitch a little, a police officer will interpret these as signs of drunkenness and not necessarily care about your alternative explanations.

A police officer isn’t looking for reasons to let you go when you take a field sobriety test. The purpose of these tests is to look for evidence to arrest you and compel you to submit to a breath or blood test, which you can’t refuse without a penalty.

Arrested Anyway? Contact an Attorney.

Although it’s your right to decline a field sobriety test, that doesn’t mean you won’t get arrested. The officer can claim to smell alcohol on your breath or find another reason to place you under arrest for DUI. Remember that you have the right to remain silent, so say nothing except to demand to see an attorney.

If you are in this situation right now, consider reaching out to our legal team at Orr Law Firm today to learn more about how we can help you defend against DUI charges.