If you were arrested for driving drunk this Thanksgiving, you’re hardly alone. Police in the Denver area have ramped up patrols through mid-December, and their extra efforts are catching a lot of people.
The Thanksgiving holiday is known for an increase in alcohol-related offenses. In 2016, Colorado police arrested 518 drivers under suspicion of DUI charges from Nov. 18-28. They made 57 arrests in the Denver area alone. The total number was far more from the 283 arrested in the previous year.
One of the big culprits is the night before Thanksgiving, commonly called “Blackout Wednesday.” It is connected with many arrests for drunk driving, particularly for college-aged people who may be returning home for the weekend and carrying their college binge-drinking habits with them.
Binge drinking is having five or more drinks in a row if you are a man, and four or more drinks in a row if you are a woman. According to one report, 20 percent of teens have admitted to drinking and driving, so police are on high alert to catch those underaged drinkers who drive.
If you were charged, you may have been stopped in a sobriety checkpoint set up under the extra police coverage. When the police use a checkpoint, they can arrest you under different circumstances than in a traffic stop, where they must first have probable cause.
Regardless of how it happened for you, it is vital that you fight back because sentencing for first-time DUI offenders can be steep. You may face a loss of driving privileges, jail time, high fines, and other penalties. Repeat offenders receive enhanced sentencing with further penalties.
With the help of an experienced defense attorney, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dropped. Here’s a look at possible defenses for your case.
Alcohol Absorption Rate
Perhaps your blood alcohol concentration was within legal limits when you began driving, but rose between then and the traffic stop.
Someone was threatening you with serious injury or death unless you drove while intoxicated.
Honest Belief to Contrary
You honestly thought the alcohol you drank had been absorbed, or the prescription drugs had worn off, before you got behind the wheel.
The officer did not have probable cause to stop you in traffic. If you can prove that you were obeying traffic laws and your vehicle was performing according to safety standards, the officer cannot legally pull you over (except in the case of sobriety checkpoints).
Inaccurate Blood Test
The police test your blood alcohol concentration at the station. If the tests were tainted or mishandled in transit, the evidence may be considered inadmissible in court.
Inaccurate Breathalyzer Test
The machine was improperly calibrated, or the officer was not sufficiently trained or authorized to administer the test. The breathalyzer may have picked up false readings from other substances, such as mouthwash or cigarettes. It may have picked up alcohol from food you consumed. If you are diabetic, ketones in your blood can smell like alcohol and register as alcohol on a breathalyzer test, even if you are sober.
Inaccurate Field Test
The results of your field test were improperly administered, or you had medical reasons such as an injury that prevented you from performing to standards. The officer may have mistaken your allergy-reddened eyes for a sign of inebriation. If the officer used inappropriate conduct with you in the field test, the testimony may be disregarded.
Lack of Knowledge
You consumed a drink that you didn’t know contained alcohol.
Miranda Rights Not Read
A police officer is required to read your Miranda rights at the time of your arrest. If you did not hear the officer read your rights, their evidence can be left out of the case.
You had to drive someone to the hospital to save their life or deliver a baby, even though you had too much to drink.
You may have been sitting in or lying down in a vehicle, but you weren’t driving when the police questioned you.
Fatigue may have caused erratic driving. The weather may have interfered with your ability to control the vehicle. Medical reasons may cause you to have slurred speech, clumsy motions, or incoherent speech. If you have a reasonable explanation, your charges may be dropped.
If any witnesses can prove that the officer’s testimony does not match the truth of the situation, you may have a valid defense.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.