Colorado Springs Field Sobriety Test Lawyers
Are FSTs Designed to Fail?
In the prosecution of a DUI case, the government will rely heavily upon the administration of standardized field sobriety tests, commonly referred to as “roadsides." Police officers utilize a battery of tests as part of their investigation to gather evidence that the driver is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or both. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set forth certain standardized tests to help police officers gauge a motorist's condition, including his alertness, physical coordination, response time, and ability to follow directions.
It is important to know that, in Colorado, you don't have to agree to perform field sobriety tests. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, do not make statements or discuss the details of the incident until you have an experienced Colorado Springs DUI defense attorney on your side. The Bussey Law Firm team has been challenging FSTs for years and continues to do so on a daily basis. We understand how law enforcement officials administer these tests and use the results. In fact, Tim Bussey is a certified NHTSA Field Sobriety Test Instructor. We will work diligently to protect your rights every step of the way and fight the charges against you. Contact us today at (719) 475-2555.
Types of Field Sobriety Tests
Field Sobriety Tests are voluntary. Law enforcement cannot force you to attempt these tests. If you consent to field sobriety testing during a DUI investigation in Colorado Springs, you will likely be asked to do the following tests:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: This is an eye test where the police officer will follow your gaze to check if it is wavering. The officer will do so by holding up a stimulus, such as a finger or pencil about six inches from your nose. If the officer observes your eyes trembling or jerking while tracking the stimulus, you will fail the test. While the prosecution will contend that alcohol was the cause of the nystagmus, there are dozens of other causes. These causes include, but are not limited to, congenital conditions, inner ear problems, prescription medications, stress, allergies, change in vision prescription, cataract surgery, and/or sheer nervousness from being confronted by law enforcement.
- One Leg Stand: You will be asked to place your hands at your side and extend one foot. You may also be asked to simply stand erect for a period of time such as 15 seconds. You may or may not be able to remove your footwear. The test may or may not be on a level surface. The officer will observe to see if you are swaying, losing your balance, and/or placing your foot down. If the officer determines, in his opinion, that you were swaying or losing your balance, you will fail.
- Walk and Turn: In this test, you will be asked to stand at attention, walk nine steps touching heel to toe, pivot exactly as instructed, and walk the same number of steps back. The "line" may be an imaginary line. If you begin too early, step off the line (real or imaginary), lose your balance in the officer's opinion, or lose count of the number of steps, you will fail this test.
- Verbal Skills: Law enforcement may request you perform tests aimed at assessing your speech such as counting backwards or reciting the alphabet. If you count incorrectly, sing the alphabet, recite the wrong letter, or the officer misunderstands your recitation, you may fail these tests.
Challenging Field Sobriety Tests
The admissibility and reliability of field sobriety tests can be challenged in court. Before the tests can be admitted, the court must find that the tests were voluntarily. If law enforcement did not advise you that the tests were voluntary or compelled you to participate in the testing, a skilled defense attorney can challenge the admissibility of the tests. Even if the tests are admitted, they are not perfect. There are studies which demonstrate that, even when performed accurately, these tests are not entirely reliable when it comes to determining a driver's impairment. A knowledgeable lawyer will confront law enforcement about whether the tests were correctly executed.
Additionally, officers may claim that other tests were administered beyond the battery recognized by NHTSA. Non-standard tests are implicitly less reliable and should be challenged in court. Another area of challenge relates to the physical condition of the driver. Often, drivers fail field sobriety tests not because they are drunk, but because they have a physical condition that prevents them from performing these tests. For example, when a person has an inner ear infection, it could affect his sense of balance. Your performance on the tests could also depend on other factors, such as your age, fitness, or level of exhaustion on any given day.
Contact a Top Colorado Springs DUI Lawyer
If you or a loved one have been accused of a DUI, you need a veteran Colorado DUI attorney who has a record of getting results for clients. Contact The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., at (719) 475-2555 to schedule a free consultation.