DUI Defense FAQ

DUI Defense Attorneys for Eagle + Garfield Counties

Get Answers Colorado DUI Defense Questions

It is important you understand your rights and options if you are pulled over for DUI. After making a stop, if the officer suspects the driver is impaired, he or she will ask the driver to perform voluntary standardized roadside maneuvers. The “voluntary roadside maneuvers” are voluntary under the law; However, as a practical matter, law enforcement views these tests as a way to exonerate yourself – to show you are not impaired. In these current times, if you refuse, the police will likely arrest you and take you to jail.

The police will also ask you to provide a blood or breath sample. Under the DMV regulations, all drivers have already expressly consented to provide a sample for testing (as part of obtaining your license). This is also viewed as drivers’ opportunity to exonerate themselves. A REFUSAL TO PROVIDE A BLOOD OR BREATH SAMPLE RESULTS IN AUTOMATIC REVOCATION OF DRIVERS’ LICENSE. In addition, even with eventual provisional reinstatement of a license to drive, the driver will be required to use an interlock system for an extended period of time, usually two years.

1What if I am pulled over? What should I do?
  • First and foremost, find a safe place to pull over. Remember that as soon as the police officer decides to pull you over for drunk driving (DUI/DWI), he starts making observations that he will put in the police report. This document can have a significant impact on the outcome of both your criminal trial and your DMV hearing. One of the first things the officer does is make a mental note of how you pull over. If you drive erratically, slow down too abruptly, or pull over in an unsafe location, the officer notes it in the report.
  • Don’t make any sudden movements! Officers are trained to be cautious, and to protect themselves, first and foremost. They always approach the car from behind so they have a clear view, and so the driver would have to turn completely around in order to shoot or attack them. So, don’t make any sudden movements and keep your hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 o’clock.
  • Be Polite! The obvious reason to treat the officer respectfully is that you are far less likely to be arrested. If you’re rude or hostile, the officer is more likely do everything possible to get you convicted, including writing a very incriminating police report. If the officer asks you to step out of the vehicle, you must comply, otherwise you could be charged with resisting arrest.
  • Don’t answer any potentially incriminating questions, and don’t lie! The anxiety of getting pulled over is something police officers count on. In this kind of situation, people are far more likely to incriminate themselves. You do have to give your name, license, and registration to the police officer. But if the officer asks you if you’ve been drinking, or how much—and you’re concerned that you might incriminate yourself—simply say, “I’m sorry, officer, but I’ve been advised not to answer any questions.” If you have had only one or two drinks, say so. With very few exceptions, one or two drinks will not put you over the legal limit. Lying, however, is never a good idea. If you answer a question, answer it truthfully. If you lie, and the officer knows it, the fact that you lied can be used against you in court.
2What if I refuse a field sobriety test?

Field sobriety tests are administered by police at the scene, on the side of the road. Police undergo extensive training to conduct the tests and record the results according to a set of standard forms. These results (heel to toe walking, balance, counting backwards, etc.) are used to determine sobriety. These tests can be difficult even for sober drivers. The roadside may be uneven and rocky. The police car lights are flashing. The temperature can be cold. It might be raining or snowing, etc. Other tests, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus (tracking eye movement) are more reliable. These tests are used against the driver to show intoxication.

A fairly recent development is that nearly all police cars now have DASH-CAMS and officers have LAPEL-CAMS that record the traffic stop, roadside contact and field sobriety tests. The video has been very effective in both getting cases dismissed for showing sobriety, and to force a plea bargain if it shows a clearly intoxicated driver.

3What If I refuse a hand-held breathalyzer test?
Portable breathalyzers (PBT) are not admissible in court because they are not certified and calibrated, however, they are a good indicator of sobriety. Of course – If there is no alcohol in your system, then take the breath test.
4Should I take a chemical test at the police station?
You are obligated by law to give a blood or breath sample for chemical testing when asked by a law enforcement officer. In Colorado, you choose between a blood test or breath test. The breath test is given at the police station using an Intoxilyzer machine that analyzes alcohol in your breath to a scientific certainty. A blood test will be taken at the nearest available hospital where a blood sample is drawn and sent to the Colorado Department of Health lab. Law enforcement cannot force you to give a sample, however, the law requires that you lose your privilege to drive (driver's license) for a year for refusing. If you want to reinstate your license you will have to drive with an Interlock device in your car for two years for refusing.
5What can I do to help myself after I'm released from jail and before my case starts?

The more notes you take about your arrest, the easier it will be for your attorney to fight the charges against you.

If you are certain that you did not have alcohol in your system when stopped and arrested you can take a urine test on your own. You will need to find a private provider and the cost is usually $25. Urine Alcohol Testing with Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) is used to detect recent alcohol consumption, even after the ethanol alcohol is no longer measurable. The ETG test can be persuasive to show that a driver did not consume alcohol in the preceding 80 hours.

If you did drive after consuming alcohol it is advisable to begin the DUI alcohol classes prior to going to Court.

6Do I need an attorney?

You need and deserve an experienced DUI defense attorney who will fight for your rights.

Erik Johnson knows how to win, but also that sometimes a better resolution can be achieved through negotiations with prosecutors that result in lesser charges or fewer consequences.

Whether in the Eagle or Garfield County courtrooms or at the negotiating table, you can be assured that we will develop the best possible strategy tailored to the specific circumstances of your case.

7What do my BAC results mean for my case?

Results of a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Test play a vital role in the the prosecution of a DUI or DWAI.

DUI – A BAC result of .08 or above is legally considered intoxicated (per se). The law states that a person with a BAC of .08 or above is presumed to be substantially less capable, either mentally or physically, of operating a motor vehicle.

DWAI – Colorado is one of a few states in the country that arrest people for driving with a BAC of .05 – .079. This offense is called Driving While Ability Impaired and is legally considered a lesser charge than DUI. The law states that a person is presumed to be impaired to the slightest degree if his/her BAC is above .05 but less than .079

8What is reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop?

The first issue to analyze is whether the officer had legal justification for pulling you over. Police cannot pull over anyone they want, they must have reasonable suspicion to suspect the driver is committing a violation. If they see a car speeding, swerving, driving without a taillight or any other violation of the traffic code they can pull the driver over and conduct their investigation. If police observe any indicator of intoxication, such as the odor of alcohol on the drivers breath, then they are required to start a DUI investigation.

If the contact can be challenged, evidence can be suppressed any evidence obtained in an illegal stop and had DUI charges dismissed. This is not common, but police officers make mistakes.

At Erik Johnson Law Offices our highest success rate has been in challenging the initial contact by police as unconstitutional to get charges dismissed.

9What are aggravating factors?

Certain factors aggravate a DUI and can result in harsher penalties. If an accident occurs and it is determined the driver was impaired, the prosecution can push for harsher penalties. If the accident resulted in serious injury or death, felonies, including vehicular assault and vehicular homicide will be charged.

Examples of other aggravating factors include bad driving, rude behavior, lack of cooperation with police, suspended or revoked license, alcohol combined with drugs, children in car and commercial drivers license.

10What will happen to me if I get a DUI conviction in Colorado?

If you are convicted of drunk driving in you will likely face harsh consequences including one and usually more than one of the following:

  • Jail or prison time
  • Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license
  • Large fines
  • Restitution
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device on your car
  • Court-ordered counseling
  • Community service
  • Victim impact panel
  • The law requires an alcohol evaluation and usually monitored sobriety during probation
  • Probation – Generally 12 to 24 months to ensure all of the above requirements have been accomplished and that the defendant has committed no new offenses

In addition to these court-ordered punishments, there are many secondary or “collateral consequences” of a Colorado DUI conviction. The DUI conviction will go on your permanent record and will, therefore, affect future employment opportunities – especially if driving is required, professional licenses, citizenship application, and scholarship opportunities, among other things.

The seriousness of a criminal conviction means you can’t afford to try and fight a DUI charge on your own.

11I have a full-time job and a family, do I have to take the DUI Classes?

Yes! If you are charged with a DUI in Colorado, it is often advisable to begin the DUI alcohol classes prior to going to Court. The only reason you would not begin the classes is if you have absolutely no chance of taking a plea bargain and you have a very good chance of winning at trial. This helps your case in several ways. In negotiations with the District Attorney’s office, it is helpful to explain to the District Attorney how serious you are taking the charge and demonstrate that by showing the DA the classes you have completed and the community service you have served.

DUI alcohol education and therapy classes are also valuable to lessen the amount of time you may serve on probation. Often the length of probation is based on how many classes you are required to complete. This is because you can only take one class per week at any certified agency in Colorado. Therefore, if you have twelve classes, it will take a minimum of twelve weeks to finish the classes.

The types of classes vary but the safest set of alcohol classes to take is alcohol education. This consists of twenty-four hours of education on alcohol and its effects. This can be taken through numerous agencies throughout Colorado. Often the alcohol education is followed up by alcohol therapy. Therapy classes range from forty-two hours up to eighty-six hours. The Judge will determine what level of treatment he or she feels is appropriate based on the facts of your case and the probation recommendation through the alcohol evaluation.

12Do I have to go to trial?

You may have to go to trial if you cannot accept a plea bargain or the DA will not compromise with a lesser plea and you think you have a very good chance of winning at trial.

Going to trial is very expensive and risky. It also requires additional attorney fees and a significant investment in time to all.