What You Need to Know About Breathalyzer Tests & DUI Defense in Colorado
If you have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), it is likely that you were subjected to a breathalyzer test, the results of which constituted a violation of Colorado's drunk driving laws. You may feel as if the results of the breathalyzer test all but guarantee your conviction, and because of this, you are thinking about pleading guilty to avoid what you believe will be an ultimately fruitless trial. But there is hope. With the assistance of an experienced Colorado Springs DUI defense attorney, you have a chance at fighting your drunk driving charges.
At The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., our compassionate legal team has provided countless clients with quality legal representation in their DUI cases. From the DMV hearing to the criminal trial, we work closely with our clients every step of the way and ensure that they understand their position along with their options throughout the process. If you are seeking an attorney who truly cares, call our office today at (719) 475-2555.
A breathalyzer test is one of many chemical tests you may be asked to go take if you are suspected of driving under the influence. It can determine whether a person's blood alcohol content (BAC) is over the state-imposed limits by taking a breath sample and scanning it for alcohol content. Unlike other chemical tests, breathalyzers can be administered on the road, so they are favored by police officers performing pullovers.
The test is administered through a machine that is usually a box with a tube attachment. The person being tested blows through the tube to provide a breath sample. The scanning equipment inside the box receives the breath sample, "reads" it, and measures how many alcohol molecules there are against the total number of molecules in the sample, creating a percentage.
According to Colorado's criminal statutes regarding drunk driving, a driver who blows a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 percent is presumed to be driving while his or her ability is impaired by alcohol (DWAI). A driver who blows a BAC of 0.08 percent or more is presumed to be guilty of DUI. Both are considered serious violations that may incur both administrative penalties and criminal penalties if the driver is convicted of either offense in the court of law.
Blowing over 0.05 percent is not the end of the world, however. While it may lead to an arrest, breathalyzer data are not always accurate. On top of that, there are reasons why you may blow a higher-than-legal BAC outside of drinking. With a skilled defense attorney, you may beat your DUI charges yet, which is why you should never presume a high BAC means that you will be facing time in jail. That being said, you should never refuse a breathalyzer test.
An officer may pull you over if he or she has probable cause to do so. This means that you were driving in such a way that made the officer suspicious you were breaking a law, or that you needed assistance. Once you are pulled over, the officer will likely ask you to perform some field sobriety tests, such as walking in a straight line or standing on one foot. These tests help the officer determine whether you are impaired.
If you pass the sobriety tests, the officer may decide that further tests are needed to determine whether or not you are driving sober. The officer may pull out a breathalyzer and tell you to blow into it. At this point, you may be tired of all the testing. You just want to go home. You refuse the test. That is where you would make a serious mistake, however, as you must agree to all chemical tests -- or face serious penalties.
Colorado's expressed consent law states that drivers who have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence must subject themselves to a chemical test of their blood or breath, or they will face automatic penalties. The test must be taken within two hours of the time the suspected driver was pulled over, unless "extraordinary circumstances" present themselves (weather delays, power outages, broken equipment, et cetera). The driver at least has the option of choosing what kind of test is administered. Any resistance during this process may be construed as refusal.
Furthermore, a suspected driver has to comply with a preliminary breath test, or a roadside test, even if an arrest has not been made. Refusal may cause the officer to become more suspicious and find another reason to make an arrest, and the arrested person will have to comply to a chemical test anyway.
You are legally obligated to accept the breathalyzer test, even if the results show that you were not over the BAC limit at the time of the traffic stop. The severity of the penalties will go up with each refusal of the test.
First refusal: A one-year license revocation
Second refusal: A two-year license revocation
Third refusal: A three-year license revocation
Even a one-year license revocation can and will have a serious impact on your life. You will have to rely on public transportation, rideshares, or friends and family to transport you to work, to the grocery store, and home. Your independence will be severely limited.
It is important to note that you may not plead the Fifth in order to avoid a chemical test. A refusal is a refusal and the penalties that come with it will be automatically granted, no matter your Constitutional rights. The best way to try and protect your rights? Speak with an attorney who can go to bat on your behalf.
At the Bussey Law Firm, our Colorado DUI defense lawyers have decades of experience helping people like YOU beat their DUI cases. There are many defenses concerning breathalyzer results: The machine used may have been improperly calibrated or maintained; The officer who administrated the test may have not been following proper procedures; etc. If we can establish any of these things in court, your case may be dropped altogether. To learn more about your options in a free consultation, contact our office by calling (719) 475-2555 today.
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- What is Colorado’s "Express Consent" Law?