What should you know about field sobriety tests?

In Colorado, officers have many tools at their disposal for testing BAC levels. If your blood alcohol content is too high, you will face arrest for intoxicated driving. But what are the tools they use to determine that?  Some of the first an officer will rely on are field sobriety tests. Thus, it is important to understand how these tests work and how officers read the results. 

Standardized vs non-standardized tests

FieldSobrietyTests.org take a look at how field sobriety testing works in action. First, there are two types of these tests. One is standardized and one is non-standardized. There are more non-standardized tests, but fewer officers use them. Why? Because these tests do not have a set rubric. Standardized tests do. This makes them more objective. For non-standardized tests, results rely on the individual officer’s judgment. This leaves room for bias. 

What do standardized tests check?

There are only three types of standardized tests. This includes the one-legged stand, the walk-and-turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. Each test checks an area that alcohol may affect. This includes: 
  • Balance 
  • Coordination 
  • Spatial awareness 
  • Ability to follow instructions 
  • Temperament and belligerence 
What happens if you fail a field sobriety test? An officer may have you take another test, like a breath or blood test. These results may have more conclusive evidence of a high BAC level. Know that field sobriety tests are not an exact science. Because of that, officers do not over-rely on them. Courts do not take them as primary evidence. You still have room to defend yourself even if you fail one. 

Tune into our radio show
Punto Legal

Wednesdays, 5-6 pm

94.5 FM / Garfield & Mesa Counties

102.5 FM / Eagle County

107.1 / Summit County

Serving Western Colorado