If you are stopped for investigation of a DUI, an officer will almost invariably ask you to participate in “voluntary” roadside maneuvers in order to determine whether it’s “safe” for you to continue driving. In some cases, the officer may neglect to tell you that the maneuvers are voluntary, or that you do have the right to refuse these tests.
You have absolutely no obligation under Colorado DUI law to participate in such maneuvers.
Do you have anything to gain from participating?
Roadside maneuvers, often referred to as “Standardized Field Sobriety Tests,” are based primarily on three different types of tests: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the “Walk and Turn,” and the “One Leg Stand.” The first thing to understand is that the theory behind all of these tests assumes that they will be administered correctly by completely neutral and objective officers giving clear, complete and consistent instructions in ideal roadside conditions in ideal weather on subjects who don’t have any possible physical or medical conditions that would result in anything less than an ideal performance. But the fact is that an officer who suspects you of a DUI is rarely going to be neutral and you could flunk one or more of these tests for reasons having nothing to do with your sobriety. Nystagmus, for example, is a fairly common medical condition that exists in many thousands of people who have not consumed any alcohol or drugs of any kind.
Chances are high that you won’t turn in an ideal performance, especially if you are nervous about being stopped in the first place, and even if you do, it will be downgraded. The officers are not looking for evidence of your sobriety; they are looking for evidence of guilt, or more specifically, reasons to bolster the “probable cause” they are required by law to have before they formally arrest you.
Even if you don’t suffer from nystagmus, obesity, balance problems, injuries, fatigue, arthritis or any other physical limitation or drawback, stop and think about any number of highly trained professional athletes you’ve seen through the years who stumbled, tripped or lost their balance in less than ideal conditions.
There is no reason to help law enforcement build its case against you. You should politely decline to perform any such maneuvers. You don’t have to supply any reasons. Just say “no, thank you.”