September 19, 2023
The long Memorial Day weekend provided lots of opportunities for fun adventures and mishaps. Sadly, it also resulted in a lot more intoxicated drivers on the road — and police patrols to catch them before they could cause any harm.
The Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol, and around 80 local law enforcement agencies banded together May 28-June 1, greatly increasing their presence on the road. This targeted focus meant people were far more likely to get arrested for a DUI over the holiday weekend.
If you were caught in the web, you might now be facing long-lasting consequences for a one-time mistake: thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees, plus jail time.
For some, a DUI can initiate a downward spiral. You lose your license, which keeps you from working, increasing your personal and financial stress — and motivation to drink even more.
Even if you don’t generally have a problem with drinking, a DUI record can cause major obstructions to your life goals.
Thankfully, it is possible to get DUI charges reduced or dismissed with a proper defense. But to do so, you’ll need to consult an attorney proactively.
DUI Charges in Colorado
Let’s start with the DUI process in this state. “Driving Under the Influence” encompasses both drugs and alcohol.
Legal THC levels from marijuana have recently been determined, 5 ng per 100 milliliters of blood. However, DUI charges can stand on lesser amounts for mixed substance use.
Colorado considers 0.08 to be the legal limit for breath or blood alcohol content (BAC) when driving. The state must prove that you tried to operate a vehicle while in an impaired state. Note that this applies to bikes, too.
You might be pulled over by a single officer on the road. For the recent holiday, it’s likely that you passed through a routine DUI checkpoint, which is supervised by multiple officers, often with road barricades.
The officer likely asked for a breathalyzer test to get a rough reading of your blood alcohol content. They might have requested that you perform Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). You’ve probably seen these countless times in movies: horizontal gaze, walk-and-turn, and one-leg stand.
You may have laughed at Kristen Wiig’s line-dance in Bridesmaids, but in real life, failed FSTs can be used as serious evidence in court. They can also prove an equally formidable defense point, as we’ll discuss later.
If either breathalyzer or FST indicates intoxication, the officer will arrest you for a DUI with probable cause. They then must arrange for an alcohol content blood sample test as quickly as possible.
From there, your case goes to a specialized court focused on nonviolent drug and alcohol offenses. Keep in mind that if you commit other crimes while intoxicated, like theft or manslaughter, your case gains much greater complexity.
You might already notice how many steps there are to the DUI process. The good thing for you is that each step along the way provides an opportunity for defense.
Here are just a few:
Lack of Probable Cause
If you can prove the police lacked probable cause for the traffic stop, all the evidence gathered thereafter may be thrown out.
Probable cause should include a specific reason for stopping you. In other words, the police need to see a particular violation to pull you over, like missing a turn signal or swerving between lanes.
In court, the police must provide a concrete reason for the stop. “Just a hunch” won’t count.
That being said, routine DUI check-points are excluded from the probable cause defense.
Inaccurate Blood Test
Substance levels in our bloodstream change all the time. That’s why doctors ask patients to fast before blood work.
Because of this variability, you might argue with blood test results on several grounds:
- The officer did not execute the test expediently
- The lab technician was incompetent
- The blood sample integrity was compromised by improper storage, contamination, or mislabeling
Mistake of Fact or Involuntary Intoxication
Sometimes you might drive impaired without knowing it. A couple of common circumstances for this situation might include:
- Side effects of a prescribed medication lasting beyond the typical time frame
- Consuming alcohol in a spiked beverage
Conditions That Make You Appear Intoxicated
You may have failed FSTs because of legitimate medical or otherwise internal conditions, not external substances.
- Diabetic ketosis – this condition creates an alcohol-like breath smell, even if the person hasn’t been drinking
- Allergies or medication – symptoms or side effects can make your eyes bloodshot
- Fatigue – your speech might slur from intense tiredness
- Emotional driving – while still dangerous, this is not a DUI
Illegal BAC Without DUI
Harkening back to Colorado’s BAC law, you may be able to use this as a defense against a DUI, even if you can’t fully escape charges. It means admitting to driving with a BAC over 0.08 if that fact has been established, but providing evidence to argue that you weren’t truly impaired. An example of this might be witness reports of your FST aptitude to show that you were in control of your actions.
If you were, in fact, driving while impaired, sometimes the best defense is simply to work on reducing the charge. This can start with acknowledging that you might have a problem.
In this vein, drug courts encourage cooperation between prosecutors, defenders, and judges to rehabilitate defendants.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment in Colorado
There are no official requirements to qualify, but you’re a likely candidate for this sentencing option if you are:
- Under age 25
- A first-time offender
- Claiming alcohol as your primary abuse substance
- New to addiction recovery – you’ve never gone to rehab before
This can be an excellent alternative to jail time. Judges will often consider parole or probation in conjunction with substance abuse treatment programs.
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 recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.