Jonathan S. Willett
What to Do When You Are Stopped for a DUI in Colorado
In Colorado, it is very important to know what your choices are when an officer suspects you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Usually, once you are under suspicion, the officer will ask you to perform roadside maneuvers before he asks you anything about alcohol or drug testing. Always be polite if possible. Roadside maneuvers are a set of physical tests to determine if you are impaired. You can refuse to take the roadsides, but this choice allows the officer to infer you cannot complete them, and frequently results in arrest. Before you perform roadside tests, advise the officer of any physical impairment that may affect your ability. The roadsides usually include a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (“HGN”) test, which looks for an involuntary jerking of the eye when following a pen-light or pen point. If your eyes are tired, if you have contacts or eye problems, let the officer know before the test. For the rest of the physical tests that mostly involve balance, be sure to pay close attention to the instructions, because the officer factors in how you follow instructions in deciding whether you are intoxicated.
If the officer proceeds further with the investigation, he will ask you to submit to alcohol testing by Breathalyzer or by blood analysis. All drivers in Colorado are deemed to have given their “express consent” to alcohol testing. So, if you refuse the test, your drivers’ license must be suspended for one year. The Colorado Department of Health Laboratory performs all testing. Breathalyzer tests are less reliable than blood tests. In Colorado, a Breathalyzer test does not capture a second sample for independent testing, while a blood test does. Therefore, the generally accepted view is that one should elect a blood test rather than a Breathalyzer if accuracy is the goal. Regarding drug testing, there is no “express consent” requirement, so it is generally in your interest to refuse drug testing unless you do not have drugs in your system. This situation regarding drugs may change soon, at least with regard to Marijuana, as recent legislation will be establishing standards for “buzzed” driving that is likely to be signed into law by the Colorado Governor.
If the officer arrests you for DUI (over .08) or DWAI (over .05), then two separate legal proceeds begin. An administrative Department of Revenue proceeding determines whether your drivers’ license should be suspended. A separate court proceeding determines what your punishment will be. The officer will hand you a form for your administrative proceeding at the Department of Revenue. You must appear at a drivers’ license office and request a hearing within seven (7) days of receiving the notice, or else your driver’s license will be automatically suspended. When requesting the hearing, ask for the officer to be present. Your rights will be better protected if you have a lawyer at all proceedings before the court and the Department of Revenue.
Remember alcohol content in your body is a function of metabolism, so it is always a good idea to drink water and eat if you are consuming alcohol. The best strategy for DUI is to always use a designated driver, a taxi or public transportation.
Jonathan Willett has been handling DUI cases in nearly all front range Colorado counties, including the City and County of Denver, Adams County, Jefferson County, Arapahoe County, Douglas County, Boulder County, Clear Creek County, Larimer County and Gilpin County for over twenty years. He employs an advanced level of DUI defense including expert witnesses and independent toxicology laboratories.