Being convicted for a DUI can result in some life-altering consequences. A first repercussion with a significant impact on your lifestyle is that you may lose your license, making it more difficult for you to get to work and earn a living. Even if you somehow manage to keep your license, having a DUI conviction will show up on your record any time you need to have a background check, such as when you’re applying for a job or an educational program.
You may think that if you were arrested for drunk driving—even if you weren’t actually drunk—there is no way to avoid the associated penalties. However, just because you’ve been charged with a DUI doesn’t mean you’ll have to suffer severe penalties and the stigma that will follow you for the rest of your life. A charge is not the same as a conviction, and there are several defenses that you may be able to use in order to have your charges reduced or dropped altogether.
Police Need Probable Cause to Pull You Over
The Colorado police are not supposed to pull you over unless they have probable cause to do so. Probable cause could be any kind of erratic or reckless driving behavior, such as speeding, weaving in and out of lanes, abruptly braking or speeding up, or rolling through a stop sign. If you were following all the rules of the road and the arresting officer cannot prove that they had probable cause to pull you over, this is considered an improper stop and may be a strong enough defense to have the charges dropped. Even if your blood alcohol level was reported as .08 or higher, there could have been another cause for the reading (such as recently having gargled mouthwash), and if you were driving well, you shouldn’t be penalized.
Police Must Read You Your Miranda Rights
Miranda Rights aren’t just for show in police procedurals and cop movies—the police are actually required to read you your rights before arresting you. If they don’t, your defense lawyer may be able to petition to have certain evidence thrown out in court. For example, if the arresting officer didn’t warn you that anything you said could be used against you and then proceeded to ask you a leading question like, “So how much did you drink tonight?”, your response may not be admissible evidence.
Officer Testimony Is Subjective
Sobriety field tests are notoriously inaccurate because how well you perform on them is entirely subjective, and there are many reasons other than intoxication that you might perform poorly in the arresting officer’s eyes. For example, you might not understand the instructions or have difficulty following them because you are so nervous about being arrested. Or you might have an inner ear problem or some other medical condition that makes it difficult to perform tasks such as the walk and turn or one-leg stand.
In Colorado, you are not legally required to submit to any field sobriety tests, but if you didn’t realize this during the arrest and performed the tests because an officer asked you to, your defense attorney may be able to have any subjective evidence from these tests thrown out.
If Pulled Over: Be Polite, but Know Your Rights
Since most of the evidence in a DUI case will be based on the arresting officer’s observations and a blood, breath, or urine test, it’s important to know what you should and shouldn’t do at the time of the arrest. If a police officer ever pulls you over, you should always be cooperative, but you should also know that you can politely refuse to answer any questions or take field sobriety tests. You should, however, submit to a Breathalyzer test because Colorado has an implied consent law, meaning your license can immediately be suspended if you don’t agree to take this test.
Contact an experienced attorney as soon as you can after the arrest in order to start building your defense—if you’re proactive, you may be able to prevent a conviction.
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.