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Police pulled me over — must I perform a roadside sobriety test?

If police ever stop you for suspected drunk driving, whether as part of a sobriety checkpoint or because they claim you are driving erratically and/or dangerously, they will likely ask you to perform one or several roadside sobriety tests. These tests may include the infamous “one-leg stand” test, the “walk-and-turn” test or the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is where an officer will hold a finger or object in front of your eyes and ask you to follow it as it moves from side to side.

While many people believe they are required to participate in these tests — and that they will lose their licenses if they fail to do so — that is simply not the case. In fact, there are no penalties for refusing to perform roadside sobriety tests. Therefore, you can, and should, refuse them since they are voluntary.

The simple reality is that the police are merely trying to gain as much evidence against you as possible when they ask you to perform roadside sobriety tests. In many cases, the officer involved already knows if he or she is going to arrest you, so all you are accomplishing by volunteering is assisting the officer in building his or her case.

What about preliminary breath tests?

In addition to roadside sobriety tests, the police may also ask you to take a preliminary breath test (PBT), which they will use to establish probable cause for your arrest. Similarly, this test is also voluntary, meaning you can refuse.

In fact, not only does Colorado law clearly state that you can refuse a PBT, but it also says that your refusal cannot be used against you in front of a jury.

It is crucial to point out, however, that unlike PBTs and roadside sobriety tests, you will face a significant penalty if you are arrested and subsequently refuse chemical testing, such as an official blood test or Breathalyzer test. Indeed, you can lose your license for a very long time due to the state’s expressed consent law, which says that you are “deemed to have expressed [your] consent” to chemical testing by merely driving within Colorado.

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