Halloween is increasingly popular for adults, and frequently involves the consumption of adult beverages. Unfortunately, many Coloradans choose to get behind the wheel intoxicated, and every year, dozens of die in DUI accidents over Halloween and Halloween weekend.
In an effort to mitigate these statistics, the annual Heat is on Halloween enforcement involving 90-plus Colorado law enforcement agencies, increases patrols and DUI checkpoints statewide. Every year, hundreds of Coloradans are arrested for drunk driving during this holiday as a result.
If you were caught driving while intoxicated this year, you are likely dealing with serious DUI allegations. Fortunately, depending on the specifics of your case, there are a number of defense strategies that can help you face those charges.
Colorado Police Must Have Probable Cause to Stop You
In order to stop, detain and arrest you, the arresting officers must have had probable cause to make a traffic stop in the first place.
When an officer stops you without reasonable suspicion, then all subsequent evidence obtained by the officer, including blood alcohol content and field sobriety testing results, are not admissible.
Because DUI cases are hinged on the fact that you were, in fact, over the legal limit, your case will be thrown out if it can be proven that you were stopped without probable cause.
Colorado Prosecutors Must Prove You Were Driving a Vehicle
In a DUI case, the prosecution must be able to prove not only that you were over the legal limit, but that you were actually driving a vehicle.
Though officers frequently make DUI arrests after pulling the drunk driver over, there are certain situations in which the officer may not have directly observed you being the driver.
For example, if the arrest results from a car accident, there may be no witnesses to you being the driver of the vehicle involved in the crash.
Perhaps You Were Involuntary Intoxicated
If you can prove that a substance was introduced to your body without your knowledge before you got behind the wheel, an involuntary intoxication defense can absolve your criminal responsibility for driving while impaired.
This is because the consumption of the substance was not voluntary, and had you been aware, you may have otherwise chosen not to drive. However, there must be strong supporting evidence for this defense to work.
The Technicalities on Miranda Rights Violations
In order to take you into police custody, the arresting officer does not need to read your Miranda rights. However, you must be advised of your Miranda rights prior to any custodial interrogation.
Statements that you make to the police when your Miranda rights have not yet been read are not admissible as evidence for your case.
Depending on the weight of any statements you made prior to being read your rights, your charges could be reduced or even dismissed.
Sometimes There Are Questions Surrounding True Intoxication Levels
In some cases, it may be possible to question the arresting officers’ opinions as to how intoxicated you were at the time of the arrest.
This defense does call into question the testimony of a trusted officer of the law. Accusations like this must be weighed carefully against the facts. A skilled defense attorney will know whether it makes sense to bring these questions to light.
It is true, however, that field sobriety tests are woefully inaccurate, and even completely sober people often fail them.
For example, your body takes anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours to completely absorb alcohol, and testing results can be unreliable if tested during the absorptive phase.
Blood Alcohol Testing Protocols Must Be Strictly Followed in Colorado
In Colorado, breath and blood tests to measure blood alcohol content must be administered in accordance with a strict set of guidelines. For example, a breathalyzer must be calibrated, maintained and serviced properly.
Similarly, blood and urine samples must have a documented chain of custody to ensure that samples aren’t mislabeled.
A savvy attorney will ask to see the documentation for any blood alcohol testing to ensure that procedures have been followed. If there were any errors, the evidence of your blood alcohol content will be inadmissible. This evidence is central to a DUI conviction, and the case will most likely be thrown out.
When a DUI Case Goes to Trial in Colorado, Witness Testimony Can Help
When a DUI case goes to trial, the defendant is permitted to call witnesses to testify on their behalf. A witness could testify that you were not drinking before driving, or that you did not appear to be intoxicated.
If you were driving recklessly, a witness may be able to testify that your reckless driving was for some other reason than intoxication, for example being engaged in an argument with a passenger.
The best defense for a DUI is the one that works for you and fits the specifics of your case. These strategies and sometimes even a combination of them will be evaluated along with the evidence against you, in order to develop your best possible 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.