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Defending Against a Federal DUI

By Timothy Bussey on June 21, 2021

Most drivers are aware of Colorado’s DUI and DWAI laws, which make it a criminal offense to operate a vehicle with a BAC of at least 0.08% or 0.05%, respectively, as well as the costs of violating these state laws. But federal DUIs are a different thing altogether, much harder to litigate and defend against. If you are tried in a federal court, you can expect to face off against a federal attorney, but there are ways to beat these charges.

What Is a Federal DUI?
When someone is arrested in the state of Colorado for a DUI, he is typically charged in a local criminal court that will adhere to Colorado’s state DUI laws. By contrast, federal DUIs specifically refer to someone driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on federal land. Federal land can include post offices, national parks, government agencies, and military bases.

Here in El Paso County, the areas where you can be charged with a federal DUI include:

·         United States Air Force Academy

·         Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Fort Carson Army Post

·         Peterson Air Force Base

·         Schriever Air Force Base

·         Pike National Forest

·         Local federal buildings

If you are arrested on federal land for a DUI, then your case will likely be handled by a federal prosecutor who can enforce federal penalties for a DUI. The penalties for these cases are often stricter than those for state DUIs, including longer sentences. While a judge may follow Colorado’s laws regarding your offense in terms of BAC levels, you may be denied a trial by jury, have to convince a federal judge of your innocence, and meet with a federal pretrial services officer who will decide if you can be released during your trial.

Penalties for a Federal DUI
DUIs come with both administrative and criminal penalties. Administrative penalties are decided in a DMV hearing, where a DMV official will decide if your license should be suspended, if you have to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, and if you have to fulfill any other demands to get your license back.

For criminal penalties, federal law will trump state law, so instead of facing Colorado’s penalties for a DUI, you will face federal penalties. These vary depending on the land you are on.

For example, if your arrest took place in a national park, then you can be punished according to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR classifies a first-time DUI as a Class B misdemeanor, which is punished with:

·         Up to $5,000 in court fines;

·         A maximum of six months in federal prison; and

·         Probation for up to five years.

With areas other than national parks, your DUI falls under the Assimilative Crimes Act – specifically 18 U.S.C. § 13. Based on this law, your penalties will match the standard Colorado penalties and definition of a DUI. This means if you committed a DUI on a military base, you will face the standard penalties for a DUI in Colorado, but your case will be handled in a federal court.

A key element to remember is federal implied consent laws. Typically, if you are arrested for a DUI in Colorado, you have “expressed consent” when it comes to alcohol tests – specifically breathalyzer and chemical tests. Refusing a test can lead to an automatic driver’s license suspension for up to one year. However, if you are arrested for a DUI on federal land, then you have “implied consent.” If you refuse a test under implied consent, you can be charged with a federal misdemeanor.

Defenses in a Federal DUI Case
In general, the defenses for a federal DUI are the same as those for state charges, with the added burden of defending against an implied consent charge, if you refused a test. At The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., our founder, Timothy Bussey, is an experienced Colorado Springs DUI defense attorney and one of the few in the state who has the ACS Forensic Lawyer-Scientist Designation. He can launch several defenses in your DUI case, including:

·         The arresting officer performed an illegal stop.

·         The arresting officer did not perform the field sobriety or breathalyzer test correctly.

·         You only showed the objective signs of a DUI.

·         You were not read your Miranda Rights.

·         Your tests registered a false positive.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a federal DUI, call The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., at (719) 475-2555 today for a free case evaluation.

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