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St. Patrick’s Day and Drunk Driving

By Timothy Bussey on March 13, 2018

Few holidays are as directly associated with alcohol as St. Patrick’s Day. A combination of parades, parties, and public celebrations are on display throughout cities around the country. In conjunction with official celebrations, bars and restaurants brace for extra business while putting on their own special events. While much about St. Patrick’s Day is a good-natured celebration of shared heritage, there is nothing to revel in regarding the uptick in drunk driving arrests on March 17th.

Steep consequences can accompany a DUI arrest and conviction. Defending yourself against drunk driving charges in the state of Colorado can easily surpass $10,000, and that’s before you figure in the harm that can be caused to your reputation, the risk of lost employment, and other serious repercussions.

How to Avoid a DUI This St. Patrick’s Day

If possible, you need to take precautions. The traditional route is to nominate a designated driver who will definitely be sober. But in this day and age, and with the proliferation of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft, it’s easier than ever to get a ride when you need to.

A lot of people are tempted to set a drinking limit that they won’t exceed. This can be a dangerous prospect. First of all, people are affected in different ways by the same amount of alcohol depending on a variety of factors that include, but are not limited to, diet and body composition. Furthermore, your alcohol tolerance can fluctuate based on the type of alcohol you are drinking, how much food you’ve eaten, and the amount of sleep you’ve had. Finally, the rapidity with which you consume the alcohol also plays a role. Two drinks in 15 minutes will hit you differently than two drinks in an hour.

Theoretically, the only failsafe way to avoid a DUI is to not drink at all, but even if you haven’t and are pulled over by a police officer, a tainted breathalyzer or field test kit may give you a false positive if you consent to these voluntary searches (to avoid this risk, do not consent). Call a lawyer right away.

What Are Your Rights If You Get Pulled Over on Suspicion of DUI?

Colorado has two offenses related to driving while intoxicated. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI) is applicable if you are substantially incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle. The state will charge you with DUI if your BAC is .08 or greater. The lesser included offense of Driving While Ability is Impaired (DWAI) is applicable if your ability to operate a motor vehicle is affected to the slightest degree by alcohol, drugs, or both. The state will charge you with DWAI if your BAC is greater than .05 but less than .08. It should be noted that for drivers under 21 years of age, the legal limit for a DUI is .02.

In exchange for the privilege of utilizing Colorado’s roads, Colorado requires you to give “express consent” to cooperate in the completion of a chemical test of your breath or blood in order to measure your BAC. Refusal to take such a test, or a result greater than .08, can result in the DMV placing an ignition interlock device in your car for up to two years.

There are a number of other things you should keep in mind if you get pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence:

  • Be careful of what you say to the officer. Any admission of drinking will absolutely be used against you.
  • You do not have to take any field sobriety tests. Roadside breath tests can’t be used to prove your guilt (or innocence) in court. They are simply used to support an arrest. Roadside tests such as standing on one leg or walking a line will be used against you and are incredibly difficult to “pass.”
  • When an officer administers an official BAC test, you can choose breath, blood, or refusal. Prior to choosing, you do NOT have the right to speak to an attorney.
  • If you refuse to take a chemical test, you will be subject to a revocation of your driving privileges for a minimum of one year and having an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle for up to two years. The state will also use your refusal to take a test as evidence of guilt.
  • A blood test can be retested later. This is not an option with breath tests as there is no sample capture.

Most of all, remember that you do not have to help the police build a case against you.

The penalties for a DUI are steep. Your first DUI offense may result in a license revocation of nine months, a $600 to $1,000 fine, up to one year in jail, up to 96 hours of community service, and compulsory alcohol education and therapy. The penalties jump in severity with each subsequent offense.

Colorado authorities are extra alert during holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day. Even if enforcement is increased, all drivers are entitled to be treated fairly and have their rights protected. If you find yourself facing an allegation of driving under the influence this St. Patrick’s Day, protect yourself by consulting with one of our experienced Colorado DUI attorneys at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., immediately. Call (719) 475-2555 for a free consultation.

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