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I Passed the Field Sobriety Test - Why Was I Charged with DUI?

I Passed the Field Sobriety Test - Why Was I Charged with DUI?

It is Friday night, and you have just left the bar after a long night of drinking. Despite having had a few drinks, you have also drank considerable amounts of water, eaten plenty of food, and have waited a suitable amount of time to let the effects of alcohol wear off. As such, you feel more or less fine and decide to drive yourself home. Before you know it, a police officer has pulled you over and is asking you to submit to a number of “tests,” such as a one-leg stand test, a horizontal gaze test, and even a handheld breathalyzer. Despite passing all of the officer’s tests, you are still placed under arrest. But why have you been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if you've passed all of the field sobriety tests?

What Happens if You Pass a Breathalyzer?

Despite popular belief, passing field sobriety tests (FSTs) is in no way a guaranteed method of avoiding being arrested for drunk driving. First, it is important to remember that FSTs are highly subjective, non-scientific tests that are in many ways made to be failed. Police officers are looking for so many minute signs of intoxication that it is nearly impossible to complete an FST without giving numerous clues of impairment, regardless of whether or not you are actually intoxicated. This leads many people to believe they “passed” an officer’s tests when they actually failed. In fact, even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) admits that FSTs are only between 65 to 77 percent accurate, with as many as 35 percent of people who fail the tests and go to jail may not actually have been impaired.

The results of FSTs are not the only deciding factor for whether or not an officer will make an arrest. Police officers only need “probable cause,” or reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and is unfit to drive. While the results of FSTs do indeed play a major role in helping an officer gain proper probable cause, they are not the only method.

Other clues of impairment include:

  • The smell of alcohol
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Flushed face
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding the officer’s requests
  • Erratic driving
  • The presence of an open alcohol container

What Happens if you Fail to Provide a Breath Test?

A roadside breathalyzer test is considered a field sobriety test (FST). While a police officer may imply otherwise, roadside FSTs are completely optional and are solely for the officer’s benefit. Given this knowledge, it is therefore rarely a good idea to submit to a roadside FST if you have not yet been arrested. You have the right to refuse to take an FST without any fear of immediate legal consequence; your refusal also cannot be used against you as direct evidence in court should your case go to trial. Just be aware that if you do politely refuse to take an optional breathalyzer test, you are probably going to be detained – not the same as arrested – and taken back to the police station, where things are a little different.

If you have been arrested, however, you are required under Colorado’s implied consent laws to submit to any chemical test that an officer should request. Refusing to take a chemical test using a full-sized breathalyzer machine can hit you with instant penalties, including the automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 1 to 3 years, due to the state’s implied consent law. The automatic suspension is issued by the Colorado DMV, so it can be used as evidence of guilt and cannot be challenged in court.

Who Can Defend Your Driving Privilege?

If you have been arrested for DUI in Colorado, it is imperative you contact an aggressive Fort Collins DUI attorney from Rachel A. Michael, LLC as soon as possible to protect your future and freedom. As a former prosecutor and public defender who is well-versed in the procedures of the local courts, our founding attorney Rachel A. Michael can provide the insight you need to stay one step ahead of the prosecutor and minimize your chances of conviction.

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