It’s prom and graduation season for Denver high school students. A time of celebration. Of transition. Of closing the book on one chapter of their young lives and preparing to begin the next one.
Also, many use these rites of passage as a chance to experiment with alcohol for the first time. Or, if they’ve already been drinking, to go even more wild as a sort of last hurrah with their childhood friends.
All too often, this partying leads to injuries, arrests, and DUI charges – not exactly the best way for your child to start the next phase of their life. Below, we’re going to detail the stats on teen drinking and driving, cover the laws, and discuss common defense strategies.
Underage Drinking and Driving in Colorado
Here are several sobering statistics to consider:
- Every year in the U.S., almost 3,000 teens ages 16 to 19 die from automobile accidents.
- About 250,000 teens experience serious injuries from automobile accidents every year.
- One-third of fatal automobile accidents for teens involves the use of alcohol.
- On graduation night, that figure rises to 40 percent of all fatal teen automobile accidents.
- Among people under 21 years old who lose their lives in accidents, 33 percent die during graduation season.
- Nearly 80 percent of teens say they are more likely to drink and drive during graduation season, and only 25 percent considered drinking and driving dangerous.
- A driver between the ages of 16 and 20 with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08 is up to 32 times more likely to die in a single vehicle crash than a sober driver, and 13 times more likely to survive a crash in which someone else dies.
Colorado Laws on Underage Drinking and Driving
The laws in Colorado specifically address underage drinking and driving. The statute reads as follows:
“It is a class A traffic infraction for any person under twenty-one years of age to drive any vehicle in this state when the person’s BAC, as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood, is at least 0.02 but not more than 0.05 at the time of driving or within two hours after driving.”
Upon receiving a sentence, a defendant will be required to submit to the regular penalties for a class A traffic infraction and perform 24 hours of community service. The judge may also require that the defendant submit to an alcohol assessment or evaluation program, complete a course of alcohol education, or enter an alcohol treatment program.
Two or more violations will be classified as class 2 traffic misdemeanors with applicable penalties. A conviction may result in a mandatory installation of an ignition interlock system, which disables a vehicle’s use if a BAC is over the set limit.
If your son or daughter refuses to be tested for blood alcohol concentration upon arrest, the refusal can still be admitted as evidence in a trial. Colorado law operates under the expressed consent principle, which states that if you drive a vehicle you accept chemical testing of your breath, urine, or blood in a drinking and driving case. Driving privileges may be revoked for refusing to submit to testing.
Common Defenses to DUI Charges in Colorado
If your child is charged with DUI this spring, you need the help of a knowledgeable Denver DUI attorney who can fight the charges. Here are some of the possible defenses that we may be able to employ:
The police lacked probable cause when they pulled your child over.
The police failed to read Miranda rights to your son or daughter at the time of arrest.
Improper Field Test
The arresting officer may have administered the field tests in the wrong way or misinterpreted the results.
Improper Breath Test
Many issues can arise from the breathalyzer test. The operator must have a valid license. The machine must be properly calibrated prior to testing. The testing must be administered correctly. If any of these are not true, the case can be dismissed.
Other problems may arise with the breath test. Mouthwash, hairspray, medications, and chemicals like hairspray can produce false positives. Bodily functions like vomiting or burping can throw off results. A skilled attorney will gather all evidence that can potentially show that the breath test is invalid.
Compromised Blood Test
The police will take a blood sample at the station for more evidence. If the blood is improperly stored or labeled, it cannot be admitted as evidence.
Lack of Knowledge
Your teen may have drunk punch at a party without realizing it was spiked with vodka or something similar. This can be a valid defense in certain cases.
As you can see, your child may not be doomed to a conviction with the help of an experienced Colorado criminal lawyer. Call today for a free consultation. We will review your case and work hard to protect your child’s rights.
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.