Denver DUI Primer

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dui-arrestWho could ever be truly prepared for being arrested? The truth is that the thought of being arrested isn’t a common thought to have, so we don’t make provisions for it ever happening. But what can you do if you are ever arrested? Do you know what your rights are?

You know that you have the right to remain silent, but you also have the right to an attorney; and this will be your saving grace in the event that you are arrested for driving under the influence. A DUI offense in Colorado is not to be taken lightly, you risk having your driver’s license revoked as well as having to serve jail time. The prospect of having to spend time in prison is a terrifying one, and few people can afford to be without their driver’s license for a long period of time. This is why making sure that you have an attorney with knowledge and experience is your best option.

If you are faced with a DUI charge, you will need to have an attorney available who will consider all of the possible strategies in your defense. They will be able to tell you whether you have a good defense to your case; and may be able to litigate on your behalf to have the prosecutor dismiss or reduce the charges. In most cases having a guilty plea aids in this negotiation and is especially favorable if this is your first offense. In the same way that your attorney would be able to persuade prosecution to reduce charges, they will also be able to help you avoid having your driver’s license revoked.

One of the factors that a good defense attorney will investigate is what aspects of the case can be proven in court. Prosecution in Colorado must be able to prove that you were in fact driving the vehicle and that you had consumed alcohol or narcotics. But further to that, they need to be able to prove that you had consumed enough alcohol or drugs to impair your driving ability to a substantial degree.

Experienced attorneys will challenge the evidence brought in by the prosecution and prevent their case against you from growing. Another defense would be to prevent the prosecutor from introducing some evidence against you to begin with. While not everyone understands legal jargon, you can know what aspects of the case your attorney will be focusing on.

Some of the aspects that your attorney will investigate would be as follows:

  • Driving Defenses

If you weren’t driving the vehicle, you cannot be found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Seems like an obvious fact, but in many cases the office will make an arrest after pulling the driver over. You can still be charged with a DUI based on circumstantial evidence from the arresting officer that you were driving the vehicle, but they need to be able to provide definitive proof thereof. Without this evidence, it would be very difficult for the prosecutor to argue your guilt.

  • Improper Arrest

The arresting officer would need to prove that they had the legal authority to stop your vehicle and had a probable cause to place you under arrest. Without these factors, the judge may rule that the officer’s evidence is not admissible in court. Even if your case is brought to trial in front of a jury, the lack of this evidence will affect the outcome of your case. It becomes extremely difficult for the district attorney to prove your guilt with the exclusion of this evidence. For example, if the officer’s statements and your breathalyzer test results are suppressed by the judge, prosecution will not be able to offer enough proof that you were over the legal limit. Thus, they will be unable to win the case against you.

  • Probable Cause

Denver law states that a police officer must have reasonable suspicion before they can pull you over. Only if they have probable cause are they permitted to place you under arrest. Any evidence collected against you by the arresting officer can be suppressed by a judge in the event that they did not have adequate reasonable suspicion when you were pulled over. Your defense attorney will examine the evidence to establish whether or not the officer had probable cause at the time of your arrest. Should the officer not – then your defense attorney can file a motion to suppress the illegal arrest and any evidence collected from it.

There are a variety of excuses used by police officers when implementing an “enforced stop” on drivers. These can include;

  • Excessive Speed
  • Not stopping for a red light or a stop sign
  • Following too closely or driving too slowly
  • Weaving through traffic or driving erratically
  • Failure to use a turn signal or not yielding to an emergency vehicle
  • Not having your headlights turned on at night
  • Throwing a cigarette from your car or playing your music loudly.

While some of these seem quite petty, they are used as an excuse to pull you over and launch a DUI investigation. In addition to the above, they can also indicate mechanical violations. These include:

  • Having anything hanging from your rear view mirror
  • No visible license plates or expired tags
  • Smooth or bald tires
  • Any faulty lighting on your vehicle
  • Tinted windows or a cracked windshield

Any of the above can become the first step toward the officer launching a DUI investigation against you, regardless of whether the stop is legitimate or not.

  • Vehicle Accidents

The majority of DUI arrests are as a result of an officer’s response to the scene of an accident. Despite not actually seeing you drive the vehicle, Colorado law allows the police officer to use this event as reasonable suspicion to arrest you. In the heat of the moment, it is difficult to reason with anyone, especially after a traumatic event like an accident. Try remaining as calm as possible and remember that the officer would need to establish the following in order to make a case against you:

  • The location of the driver when the police arrive on the scene
  • Who was in possession of the ignition key after the accident?
  • What statements were collected from those who witnessed the accident?
  • Injuries sustained by the driver of the vehicle.
  • Is the vehicle registered to the driver?
  • Position of the driver’s seat and physical evidence establishing who was driving the vehicle.

If there were no witnesses to the incident, it would provide substantial arguments for the defense case. These factors include who was actually driving the vehicle and whether or not the driver’s alcohol level was over the legal limit at the time of the accident. An efficient attorney will use every aspect of the case to build a solid defense for their client. From examining the validity of the contact with the arresting officer to establishing whether the probable cause was legitimate by calling on witness testimony.

  • Witness Testimony

In the event that your case does go to trial, you will be able to call on witnesses to testify on your behalf. This would be vital to your defense. However, if a witness is unwilling to voluntarily attending the court proceedings, they can be subpoenaed to come to your aid. Witness testimony could include the fact that you weren’t drinking prior to driving, that you were distracted by conversation rather than being under the influence or that you appeared to be sober.

  • Explanations for Actions or Your Appearance

In some cases, the officer may claim that you appeared to be intoxicated. This could be supported by the officer if they reported that you may have had blood-shot eyes or if your coordination seemed impaired. Your defense attorney should be able to present counter information defending the police officer’s allegations. You may be required to obtain a medical certificate stating that you have a physical impediment that limited your capability of completing the field sobriety test correctly. The attending physician may also be required to testify on your behalf as well, should the case go to trial. If you do suffer from allergies or have a sleeping disorder, it is common to suffer from red eyes. There are a number of substantial reasons for blood-shot eyes, and your defense attorney should be made aware of any ailments that you suffer from that could support this argument. It is also highly unlikely that the average member of the public would know what to do during a field sobriety test. If you performed poorly during your FST because you weren’t fully aware of the officer’s instructions – or if they failed to instruct you clearly and concisely – let your attorney know about it. Field sobriety test results can also be suppressed by a judge in the event of extreme weather conditions.

  • Breathalyzer and Blood Test Defenses

The blood or breath test limit in Colorado is a BAC result of 0.08 or higher in order for you to be charged with driving under the influence. Police officers will request blood or breath samples in almost every drunk driving case they are presented with, because the results are an important part of the prosecution’s case against you. Colorado law also requires that these samples be collected from the driver in a very specific way. There are rules about the maintenance of the machines; the frequency that they are serviced as well as the calibration settings. If either of these factors is not conducive at the time of the test, the results can be suppressed as evidence during your trial. If there is evidence that the equipment was tampered with or not in a good working condition, this too will prove beneficial to your defense case. Similarly the technician performing the test needs to hold the correct certification in order for the results to be considered by a judge. In the event that the technician giving the test does something wrong or is found to be incompetent, their testimony and evidence will also be suppressed by the presiding judge. Even in the unlikely event that the judge doe not suppress this evidence and your case is brought to trial; your attorney should be able to demonstrate to a jury that the results are not reliable. Important components of arguing the test results would include the defense attorney questioning the findings. They do this by gathering the following information:

  • Was the blood drawn within 3 hours of the termination of driving? Was the sample taken in a legally approved manner?
  • How much time had passed between the time of the arrest and the time of the test?
  • Was the blood technician properly certified to draw blood? What certification does the blood technician or nurse hold?
  • What type of solution was used to cleanse the area before the needle was inserted?
  • How was the blood vial handled after the blood was drawn? Was the blood sample refrigerated promptly thereafter?
  • Was the proper chain of custody maintained with handling the sample?
  • Was there any evidence of the blood sample clotting or being fermented?
  • Are there adequate amounts of preservatives or anti-coagulants present in the sample and was it mixed with the sample correctly?
  • What was the alcohol level?
  • Was it necessary to have the sample independently analyzed?
  • It is appropriate to run DNA testing or blood typing on the sample?

The district attorney in a DUI case would have to prove certain elements of the crime in order for a guilty verdict. They would need to establish whether the arresting officer had reasonable cause to pull you over. The prosecutor would need to provide substantial evidence that you were the driver of the vehicle and that you had control of your vehicle. The arresting officer would be required to conduct a thorough investigation into whether you were impaired and as a result the arrest was lawful. They would need to establish that your blood/alcohol level was at 0.08 or greater at the time of your DUI arrest.

All of these instances can be successfully argued by a competent defense attorney, providing they are given all of the information. They will seek out every facet of your case and investigate all of the possibilities thoroughly while they build your defense case.