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Field sobriety tests, FSTs, are used by police officers to determine if a driver is intoxicated. There are three tests used. They will test a driver’s balance, coordination, and if they can do more than one thing at a time without issue.

If you are pulled over in Colorado and asked to conduct a field sobriety test, you may wonder if the outcome can lead to your arrest. You may also wonder if the test is administered improperly, will it lead to your arrest and incarceration?

These common concerns are addressed here. If you have further questions about field sobriety tests and your rights, contact our DUI attorney at the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani.

Potential Mistakes When Administering a Field Sobriety Test

If the police officer makes a mistake while they administer the field sobriety test you are taking, it cannot be used to support your arrest. Before officers can administer these tests, they must undergo specialty training and receive certification. This ensures they know how to administer the test correctly.

Every test has a specific protocol for it to be done correctly. If the protocol is not followed, an arrest based on these test results may be considered invalid or improper.

Several tests are used to determine if a driver is intoxicated. These include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (you must follow an object with your eyes)
  • Rhomberg Tests (counting to 30 with your eyes closed and head back)
  • Walk-and-turns
  • One-leg stand

How to Know if Your Field Sobriety Test Results May Be Inaccurate

While field sobriety tests designed to be objective, various factors can influence their accuracy. Some things that may impact how accurate your test results are and give you cause to challenge them include:

  • Environmental Conditions: Adverse weather such as rain or snow, uneven road surfaces, and poor lighting can impact a person’s ability to successfully complete FSTs.
  • Physical Limitations: Medical conditions, age, injury, or fatigue can affect balance, coordination, and attention, all of which can influence FST outcomes.
  • Nervousness: The anxiety of being pulled over and assessed by an officer can lead to mistakes, regardless of sobriety.
  • Officer Error: The administering officer might not follow proper procedures or might misinterpret the results, leading to potential inaccuracies.

Inherent Limitations of FSTs

No test is foolproof. Even under optimal conditions, FSTs can produce false positives. Research has shown that these tests can sometimes misidentify sober individuals as impaired.

Consultation with Legal Professionals

If you believe that your FST results were inaccurate, it’s crucial to consult with a DUI attorney. They can review the specifics of your case, potentially gather evidence that supports your claim of an inaccurate test, and advise on the best course of action. They can also help create a defense strategy for your case.

Challenging an Improperly Administered Field Sobriety Test in Colorado

In Colorado, law enforcement officers utilize standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These tests, however, must be administered in strict accordance with established procedures.

Grounds for Challenge

You will have grounds to challenge the test results if the following occur:

  • Improper Instructions: One of the most common grounds for challenging an SFST is that the officer provided incorrect instructions. Misleading the driver about how to perform the test can influence the results.
  • Environmental Factors: Colorado’s diverse terrain and weather can affect a person’s performance. Wind, uneven surfaces, or poor lighting can compromise the accuracy of an SFST.
  • Inherent Inaccuracies: It’s important to note that SFSTs are not foolproof. Factors such as age, weight, medical conditions, or even footwear can influence performance and may not be indicative of impairment.

Seeking Expert Testimony

Defense attorneys in Colorado often employ experts to testify about the limitations and potential inaccuracies of SFSTs. These testimonies can be pivotal in illustrating that the test results are unreliable.

How a DUI Attorney Can Help with a Defense Strategy for Improperly Administered FSTs

A seasoned DUI attorney is familiar with the protocols and procedures law enforcement should follow when conducting field sobriety tests (FSTs). They can quickly identify deviations or inaccuracies in the way the test was administered, providing a foundation for a defense.

Challenging Officer Credibility

When you seek legal assistance to challenge a field sobriety test, some of the things your attorney will look into and consider to determine if the test was improperly administered and therefore not accurate include:

  • Training and Experience: An attorney can question whether the arresting officer has received proper training and possesses the necessary experience to correctly administer and interpret FSTs.
  • Observational Errors: By examining the officer’s report and testimonies, a lawyer can pinpoint inconsistencies or potential biases in the observations.
  • Introducing Expert Witnesses: A DUI attorney has access to experts who can provide testimony on the limitations and potential inaccuracies of FSTs. These experts can present scientific data that challenges the validity of the test results, lending weight to the defense.
  • Highlighting External Factors: Lawyers can underscore external variables that may have influenced the FST results, such as environmental conditions, the defendant’s medical conditions, or even the type of footwear worn during the test.

Navigating the Legal System

With their intricate understanding of the legal landscape, DUI attorneys can ensure that all procedural rights are protected, file essential motions, and navigate the complexities of the court system to benefit their clients.

How Challenging an Improperly Administered FST May Help Prevent Jail Time

Highlighting flaws in the administration of a field sobriety test can be pivotal in a DUI case. When these tests are improperly conducted, their results lose credibility. By successfully challenging these inaccuracies, the core evidence against the defendant may be rendered unreliable.

This significantly increases the chances of reduced charges or even case dismissal. Consequently, what might have led to jail time based on flawed evidence can result in a more favorable outcome. It underscores the importance of thorough legal scrutiny in ensuring justice and preserving one’s freedom.

At the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, our DUI attorney can help create a defense strategy for your case. Call our office to schedule an initial consultation.


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