It is often assumed that the tests police officers use to check if a driver has been drinking are always required, accurate, and cannot be challenged, but this is not necessarily the case. However, refusing to take a DUI test could also have serious consequences. If you have been accused of DUI, your best option is to contact a committed and knowledgeable Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney right away.
The Colorado Springs DUI defense lawyers at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC have helped many people accused of drunk driving or other crimes. With our help, you could have a DUI dismissed or have the charges against you reduced, sparing you from the worst potential penalties you may face. Contact us today for a free case review.
Differences Between Roadside Tests and Chemical Tests
There are two broad categories of DUI tests, the first of which is roadside tests. The Standard Field Sobriety Tests are the only roadside tests that are scientifically validated to test for possible alcohol impairment. These tests include:
- Walk and turn — In the walk and turn test, the suspect is instructed to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn around, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The officer assesses the driver for balance and the ability to follow instructions.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus — When an officer holds a pen or other object in front of a driver’s eyes and asks them to follow the object without the driver turning their head, they are looking for several things. First, they are looking to see if the driver can understand and attempt to follow instructions. Second, if a driver blinks, their eyes cannot track the object, or their eyes twitch, which can indicate that the driver is impaired.
- One leg stand — The one-leg stand test requires the driver to stand with their heels together and arms down at their sides. The driver then stands on one leg with their foot raised about six inches off the ground. The driver may also be asked to count out loud while standing in this position. The officer observes if the driver follows instructions, maintains balance, and does not lift their arms to steady themselves.
Law enforcement officers may conduct other roadside tests, but they are not as common and are not scientifically backed. For example, they may ask the driver to recite the alphabet or count backward. Sometimes, officers may ask a driver to consent to a portable breath test. However, these portable machines are much less reliable than the machines used to conduct a test in a controlled environment.
When assessing possible impairment due to drugs, the law enforcement officer may conduct tests like:
- Finger to nose test — In the finger-to-nose test, the officer asks the driver to fully extend their arm and then touch their nose or to touch their nose and then fully extend their arm to touch the officer’s finger. The officer may move their finger to different locations and test for resistance.
- Romberg test — During the Romberg test, the officer instructs the driver to stand with their feet together and cross their arms in front of them or place them at their sides. Then, the driver must stand still and keep their eyes open for 30 seconds. Next, the officer asks the driver to close their eyes and stand for 30 seconds. The officer analyzes the driver’s body movement and balance during the test.
All of the tests described above are voluntary. Not doing them does not have any repercussions, although a prosecutor could try to make arguments about the refusal to do them at trial.
The other category of DUI tests officers administer is chemical tests. These tests involve more complicated equipment and procedures than roadside tests. The two most types of chemical DUI tests in Colorado are:
- Blood — After a driver has been arrested on DUI charges, police can ask for a blood sample and run a chemical test to determine the driver’s blood-alcohol content (BAC). If the blood test registers a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, that can be used as evidence of DUI. This result means you are presumed guilty even if the alcohol did not significantly impair your driving performance. Two samples are usually taken in blood tests so one can be sent for testing, and the other can be used for later tests or as a control sample.
- Breath — A chemical breath test is not the same as a portable breath test. The machines used for a proper chemical breath test are kept at police departments and are not portable. The driver breathes into the machine. The device analyzes the percentage of alcohol molecules in the driver’s breath. If a person is suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, they will only be offered a blood test, not a breath test.
How Colorado’s Express Consent Laws Apply to DUI Tests
All drivers in Colorado must submit to blood, breath, or chemical tests if they are arrested on suspicion of DUI. In legal terms, drivers are said to have given “express consent” to DUI tests simply by holding a driver’s license. If you are asked to submit to a chemical test, you must obey the officer’s orders or face legal consequences.
However, note that the Colorado express consent law only applies after a driver has been arrested on DUI charges. If you have not been formally arrested and are asked to submit to a DUI test, you have the right to refuse the test. You can refuse to take field sobriety tests, which are only intended to give law enforcement officers probable cause to arrest you. Refusing a breathalyzer in Colorado is also not against the rules if you are requested to submit to a portable breath test after you were stopped but you have not been arrested. The difference between pre-arrest and post-arrest testing is significant.
What Happens If You Refuse to Take a DUI Test in Colorado?
While you are not required to take a preliminary roadside breath test if you are stopped, you are required to submit to a chemical test if you are arrested. There are consequences to refusing to take a DUI test in Colorado.
Refusing to submit to a DUI test post-arrest can be used in a trial or DMV hearing. Doing so is usually taken as a sign of guilt. A prosecutor can use your refusal as evidence against you in a criminal case.
Additionally, refusing to submit to a chemical test post-arrest will not simply make your charges go away. Charges can still be brought against you. Additionally, your license can be suspended for a year or longer. You may also need to have an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle before your license can be reinstated.
How an Attorney Can Help You
An experienced DUI attorney can be valuable if you have been accused of drunk driving. The machines and equipment used to conduct DUI tests are not always accurate. An attorney may be able to show that there were flaws in testing that led to a false-positive result.
Alternatively, police frequently obtain evidence against suspected drunk drivers using unethical or illegal means. A lawyer may be able to have this evidence suppressed and the underlying charges dismissed. Your attorney can investigate whether the officer who arrested you followed appropriate procedures.
Finally, a DUI lawyer may be able to help you reach a plea agreement with prosecutors that could reduce the penalties you will face—potentially reducing or avoiding jail time altogether.
Contact the DUI Lawyers at Patterson Weaver Law Today for Assistance with Your Case
The DUI lawyers at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC pride ourselves on exceptional and responsive customer service for all our clients, no matter their situation. You have rights if you have been charged with DUI in Colorado. Our legal team can work to craft a strategy that protects your rights and furthers your interests. Contact us today for a free case review.