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Field sobriety tests used to detect possible drunk driving

After a fun night out with friends, sometimes it is a challenge is to get home safely. Many simply drive home; for others who have been drinking, driving home may not be so simple and is certainly not safe. Many Colorado residents wisely recognize the need for a designated driver; however, designated drivers are not always available. Persons who have had only a few drinks may not realize that  they are legally impaired. In the event that a driver is stopped for suspected drunk driving, or any other traffic infraction and the officer observes perceivable signs of intoxication during contact with the driver, it is likely that officer will request that the driver step out of the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests or what the officer will refer to as "voluntary roadside manuevers".

One of three approved tests that the individual will likely be asked to perform is called the "walk and turn". With this test, the individual is asked to take nine steps walking heel to toe forward, turn, and then walk nine steps heel to toe back to the starting position. This test helps the officer determine the individual's balance.  More importantly, it tests the driver's ability to understand and process instructions.  If a driver begins performing the test before the officer says "start", it is a clue of impairment that will show up in the officer's report.

Another one of the three tests or voluntary roadside maneuvers that that the individual may be asked to perform is the one-leg stand. During this test, the individual stands for 30 seconds on one leg with the other foot approximately six inches off the ground. Again, this test helps the officer determine the individual's balance.

The third field sobriety test that is regularly conducted is the horizontal gaze nystagmus or "HGN". With this test, the officer looks to see if the individual exhibits unusual eye jerking motion when tracking an object like a small light.  This involuntary jerking of the eye is called a nystagmus. The HGN tests among other things whehter the individual can smoothly follow an object with his or her eyes.

It is important to note that filed sobriety tests in Colorado are voluntary.  The driver can chose not to do them when asked by the officer.  Unlike refusing a chemical test, the driver will not automatically lose his or her license for refusing to perfrom the voluntary roadise maneuvers / field soberity tests.  It's important to understand that if you are impaired to any degree, you will almost certainly not be able to complete the field sobriety tests to the officers satisfaction, and the results of the tests will be used as evidence against you in court.

If an individual is stopped by Colorado police on suspicion of drunk driving, he or she will probably be asked to perform one or more of these field sobriety tests. Based upon the outcome of these tests, the individual may be asked to perform other tests. If one is charged with drunk driving, he or she should immediately seek experienced legal counsel.

Source: dui.findlaw.com, "Field Sobriety Tests", Accessed on Feb. 24, 2017

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