Colorado Drugged Driving Defenses – What Works… and What Doesn’t

If you are facing drugged driving charges in Colorado, certain defenses have a pretty good chance of working… while others really aren’t worth your time.

In this post we’re going to talk about common strategies people try with these types of cases, focusing on which ones are generally good and which ones just plain don’t work.

First, though, a bit about DUID charges.

Understanding Drugged Driving in Colorado

Driving under the influence of any drug is a serious crime in Colorado. Whether the drug is illegal, recreational, prescription, or over-the-counter, charges may apply if the drug’s effects cause you to lose the ability to drive safely.

For example, you can be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) in Colorado even if you legally consume marijuana, since it impairs your ability to make quick decisions. Police are trained to notice signs of marijuana or other drug use when they pull people over at traffic stops.

Colorado’s laws operate under the “implied consent” principle. This means that if you are driving on Colorado roads, you understand that you may be asked to participate in a test if an officer has probable cause to believe you are a drugged driver. If you refuse the test, you can lose your driver’s license for up to one year.

Penalties for a DUID conviction include several days to one year in jail for a first offense. You will also receive a fine of up to $1,000 and need to perform community service. Two or more offenses will result in longer jail sentencing and probation periods.

To get your charges reduced or dropped, there are a number of defense strategies that you may be interested in trying, but not all defenses are created equal.

Defenses That May Work in Colorado Drugged Driving Cases

Defenses like these have been proven to work in drugged driving cases. Any of these defenses may work in your case, depending on the circumstances.

Lack of probable cause

A police officer must have probable cause to pull you over. If a police officer pulled you over for reasons other than a traffic violation, your case could potentially be dismissed.

Miranda rights not read

When you were arrested, did you hear the phrase “you have the right to remain silent” from the police officer? If not, it means that your Miranda rights were not read to you, and anything you said to the police may be inadmissible.

Defenses That May Work in Colorado Drugged Driving CasesInaccurate field sobriety test

A police officer may have misinterpreted signals on the field sobriety test. For example, you may have not been able to maintain your balance due to another health condition, not because you were under the influence of a controlled substance.

Testing mishaps

If the testing equipment was improperly calibrated, or the test results were mishandled, the results cannot be used against you in a court of law.

Lack of knowledge

You may have taken drugs without knowledge. For example, someone may have placed  in your drink at a party. Another example is confusing prescription medications – you thought you were taking a medication with no driving side effects, but you confused it with another medication. This kind of defense may at least reduce the charges or penalties you are facing.

Inappropriate communication

Law enforcement officers or the prosecuting attorney may try to offer you a plea bargain without your attorney present. This type of communication is frowned upon by the court and may result in a lighter sentence for you.

A knowledgeable Colorado criminal defense lawyer will understand which of these defenses will work best in your case.

Defenses That Do Not Work in Drugged Driving Cases in Colorado

In addition to those tried and true defense strategies, there are also several that people seem to believe are valid arguments against these charges… even though they are not. These include:

Prescription or over-the-counter medication

Even if you have a legal prescription for sleeping pills, antidepressants, antihistamines, or other drugs, you can still receive a drugged driving charge. This is also true of over-the-counter drugs that have warnings about potential impairments to your driving abilities.


If you are using a sleeping pill, you may sometimes sleepwalk or engage in other actions while under the influence of the drug. Unfortunately, if you operated a vehicle while sleepwalking, you cannot use this as a valid defense.

Partaking of a small amount of a drug

In most instances, Colorado has a zero-tolerance policy against drugged driving. That means any amount of drug in your system while driving is unlawful, including prescription medications that inhibit your driving ability.

Seek Legal Help for Your Denver Drugged Driving Charges

With a strong defense, your Denver criminal attorney may be able to get the charges against you reduced or dropped. You may be able to keep your driver’s license, stay out of jail, and avoid paying fines.

Your best strategy is to contact an experienced Colorado defense lawyer today for a free consultation. We will work with you to provide strong defenses to your charges so that you can receive the best possible outcome.



About the Author: 

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.