Roadside Breathalyzers Cannot be Used in Court

Ryan Robertson
By: Ryan Robertson
PublishedApr 5, 2021
3 minute read

Getting pulled over for suspected DUI is scary. Criminal defense attorney Ryan Robertson wants you to know what’s true and what’s not about roadside breathalyzer and sobriety tests.

Facing a DUI Charge?

DUIs have serious consequences: fines, license suspension, and possible jail time. Therefore, it is incredibly important that you speak with a lawyer. They’ll be able to tell you about your rights and possible defenses.

Call 303-688-0944 to set up a case assessment with a criminal defense attorney.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Those red flashing lights in your rearview mirror send your nervous system into overdrive. Your heart begins to sink; your thoughts freeze. A police officer or state trooper is pulling you over.

If the law enforcement officer suspects you’re driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she may ask you to complete an SFST.

SFST stands for standardized field sobriety test.

A standardized field test sobriety test is the procedure issued by law enforcement officers to drivers suspected of driving under the influence, otherwise known as a DUI.

A standardized field sobriety test can include the officer asking you to perform maneuvers like the walk-and-turn. It also can include the officer asking you to take a roadside breathalyzer test.

The SFST is Not the End of Your Case

The idea of agreeing to an SFST, especially a roadside breathalyzer, makes most people uncomfortable. It may make you feel like you are giving the police offer all the evidence they need to convict you of a DUI or other traffic violation.

But criminal attorneys will stress that field sobriety tests, including the roadside breathalyzer, are a portion of the evidence that can be presented in court, but field sobriety tests are not the end-all-be-all.

Roadside Breathalyzer in Court?

There are a lot of rumors about how field sobriety tests are used. Some people think roadside breathalyzer test results can be used against you in court. Others think they can’t.

The truth is, standardized field sobriety tests cannot be admitted as evidence in court.

The only test result that can be used against you in court is a full-on breathalyzer test or a blood test. The breathalyzer test that can be used in a courtroom is typically done at the police station or at a hospital.

So, if you have a roadside breathalyzer test, it cannot be held against you in a Colorado court.

Drivers Often Ask: Should I “Blow”?

You can refuse to participate in a roadside sobriety test, especially since these types of tests are easy to fail, even for sober drivers.

However, the officer will likely arrest you for suspicion of DUI. After all, the officer only needs probable cause that you’re driving drunk to arrest you. You’ll likely then be taken to the police station where you’ll be requested to take a breathalyzer test.

If you are arrested, you no longer have the right to refuse a breath or blood test without serious legal consequences.

Under Colorado’s Express Consent Law, you must comply with post-arrest chemical tests if you are arrested for:
  • DUI – driving under the influence – BAC at or above .08%
  • DWAI – driving while ability impaired – BAC between .05% – .08%
  • UDD – underage drinking and driving

Therefore, it is commonly recommended that you comply with a chemical test unless you are placed in a coercive, interrogative, and dangerous situation.

Consequences for Refusing a Post-Arrest Breathalyzer

We want to be clear, if you refuse a post-arrest breathalyzer or other post-arrest chemical tests, your license will be suspended for a minimum of one year. If you have had multiple DUI offenses, that suspension increases depending on the number of violations you have had in the past.

Here’s what the law states about revocations related to refusals:

Except as provided in section 42-2-132.5(4), the department shall revoke the license of a person for refusal for one year for a first violation, two years for a second violation, and three years for a third or subsequent violation; except that the period of revocation shall be at least three years if the person was driving a commercial motor vehicle that was transporting hazardous materials as defined in section 42-2-402(7).   – – C.R.S.A. § 42-2-126(c)(I)

Early Reinstatement of Revoked License

If your license is revoked, it’s possible – but not guaranteed – that you can have your license reinstated before the end of the revocation period.

…A person whose privilege to drive has been revoked for one year or more because of a refusal may apply for an early reinstatement with an interlock-restricted license under the provisions of this section after the person’s privilege to drive has been revoked for two months; except that a person who is less than twenty-one years of age at the time of the offense may not apply for early reinstatement until his or her license has been revoked for one year. – – C.R.S.A. § 42-2-132.5(4)(a)(I)

Having your license reinstated is a process in and of itself. Read more about early reinstatements here.

Why a Blood Draw May be a Better Choice

If you find yourself having to choose between a breathalyzer test or a blood test for suspected DUI, many attorneys recommend going with the blood test. Why? Blood tests can be retested. Breathalyzers cannot be retested.

By taking a blood test, you give your attorney room to contest the bloodwork’s original findings, have it retested, and potentially get you a better outcome in court.

Get Connected with a DUI Attorney

We know, being stopped for DUI can be scary. After all, being convicted of a DUI is serious. DUIs carry steep fines and more. A DUI conviction can result in having your driver’s license suspended or revoked altogether.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it’s important to talk to an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney. They’ll be able to tell you about your rights, possible defenses to your case, and what to expect as your case proceeds.

Call 303-688-0944 to schedule a case assessment.

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