You’ve probably seen or heard of people doing roadside tests during a DUI investigation. But how much do you really know about those “tests?”
First, you may hear them called different things: roadside tests, roadside maneuvers, standard field sobriety tests (SFST’s). These tests are “premised on the predictable effects of the consumption of ethyl alcohol: Sensitivity is reduced, reaction time is slowed, ability to discriminate of diminished, digital dexterity is reduced, auditory and visual discrimination and judgment fall away, tactile perception is lowered, and speed of motor response drops.” People v. Ramirez, 609 P.2d 616, 621, (Colo. 1980).
Second, you may hear about a lot of different tests or maneuvers, but there are three that are standardized and most commonly used: horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN or the “eye test”), walk and turn and one leg stand. Some officers may use additional tests, such as the alphabet or a finger to nose test.
Third, are you required to complete these tests? The answer is no, the tests are voluntary, which makes sense when you think about it – an officer cannot make you do roadside tests.
Fourth, how do you know whether you passed the tests? You really won’t know if you passed until the officer tells you. While you will receive instructions on how to perform the tests, you are not told how you are graded. This is one of the concerns defense attorneys have with roadside tests. It is difficult to pass a test if you don’t know how you are being graded.
Fifth, what happens if you don’t agree to take the roadside tests? It depends some on the circumstances. For example, if an officer has probable cause to suspect you of a DUI, then a refusal to perform the roadsides may be used against you.