Driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI), or driving under the influence (DUI) are all ways to describe the same thing: intoxicated driving. Intoxication may be the result of alcohol or another chemical substance (e.g., marijuana) or both. To be a criminal offense in Loveland, Berthoud, Estes Park, Fort Collins, and Greeley, your blood alcohol content must be at or above the legal limit, you have an illegal chemical substance in your system, or your driving abilities were otherwise impaired.
In Colorado, there are many arrests made daily for intoxicated driving. Those arrested are often people like you and me: law-abiding citizens. At The Harrell Law Firm, our DUI defense lawyer works hard to help you beat a DUI charge or to, at a minimum, get the best possible outcome in your unique situation. Contact us at 970-236-6576 to learn more about how we will help you. In the meantime, here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get from our clients when we first meet them about their intoxicated driving charge.
What is “blood alcohol content” level?
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a measurement of the amount of alcohol found in the blood expressed as a percentage. It is calculated in grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, and a BAC of 0.08 means there is 0.08% alcohol by volume. Measuring BAC is a way for law enforcement to calculate the amount of alcohol someone has had and their ability to drive a motor vehicle.
What are my rights during DUI traffic stops?
If you are pulled over due to suspicion of drunk driving or pulled over for a traffic stop and then the police officer suspects intoxicated driving, you should remember you have certain rights as a U.S. citizen. Namely, the driver and any passengers have the right to remain silent (except you must show the police your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request).
If you believe your rights were violated in any way, try to write down everything you remember, including the police officer's agency (police department, county sheriff, etc.) and badge number.
Can I refuse a Breathalyzer test in Loveland, Berthoud, Estes Park, Fort Collins, and Greeley?
You can refuse a Breathalyzer or a blood draw, but with consequences from the Division of Motor Vehicles. A breathalyzer must be certified by the State of Colorado, Department of Public Health and Environment annually. Breath alcohol (BrAC) is measured in grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. A DUI Per Se violation can be connected to either a blood draw or breathalyzer test resulting in a 0.08% alcohol per volume or higher.
DO NOT confuse a preliminary breath test (PBT) used by an officer at the scene of a traffic stop with a breathalyzer test. Colorado's Express Consent law applies to blood draws and breathalyzer tests (typically conducted at a jail or police department). The PBT or portable instruments police have with them to test your breath for alcohol are distinct. The results of these tests are typically not admissible if you are, in fact, arrested and charged with an intoxicated driving offense.
Refusal to complete a blood draw or breathalyzer test, however, carries with it significant consequences such as the loss of your license for at least a year and the requirement that you install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle you intend to drive for two years.
On any DUI case you could face the following consequences, whether or not you refuse:
- Your license may be suspended.
- You may be sentenced to jail time.
- You may still face a conviction at trial based on other criteria, such as field sobriety test results, witness testimony, and the police officer's observations.
- You may be fined.
What are standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs)?
Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are allegedly designed to help police determine whether a driver is intoxicated or not.
There are three standardized SFSTs:
- the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN test)
- the One-Leg Stand Test (OLS test)
- the Walk-and-Turn Test
The results of these tests may be used as evidence against you in an intoxicated driving case. Non-standardized tests, on the other hand, are not validated by NHTSA.
Non-standardized FSTs include:
- finger to nose test
- Modified Romberg test
- the alphabet test
- the reverse counting test
Can I refuse field sobriety tests in Colorado?
Yes, definitely do not agree to participate in SFSTs. There are many reasons a sober party would be unable to complete the non-scientific tests used by law enforcement to bolster their choice to effect an arrest. Refusing to complete field sobriety tests does not carry the same serious repercussions as refusing a breathalyzer test or blood draw under Colorado's Express Consent law.
After a DUI arrest in Loveland, Colorado, will my driver's license be revoked?
There are a variety of ways a license can be revoked related to a DUI. The first is an administrative revocation through the Division of Motor Vehicles based on a refusal to complete a breathalyzer or blood draw, or a finding that your BAC is over a 0.08. This means you can lose your driving privileges even when you have not been found guilty of driving under the influence of a chemical substance in court.
You can also lose your license based upon a conviction entering in Court for either a DUI or DUI per se charge.
What happens after a drunk driving arrest in Loveland, Berthoud, Estes Park, Fort Collins, or Greeley?
If you are arrested for drunk driving, what happens next depends on the facts and circumstances. It's important to know that DUI arrests result in two processes after an arrest: (1) the administrative hearing, which results in civil penalties, like driver's license suspension; and (2) the criminal process, which can result in a conviction in the absence of a strong DUI defense. A conviction can lead to fines, driver's license revocation, imprisonment, ignition interlock device (IID) installation, and more.
Can I still get auto insurance in Loveland, Colorado after a drunk driving conviction?
Your ability to obtain or maintain auto insurance after a drunk driving conviction depends on whether it was your first conviction. You will likely find insurance after a first conviction, although your rates can increase significantly.
Note, however, that even if you have been convicted of only one drunk driving offense, you may still be required to obtain SR-22 insurance. SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility required by either your jurisdiction or a court order. This form is not insurance, but rather proof that your auto insurance policy meets the minimum liability coverage required by state law.
Can I beat a drunk driving charge in Colorado?
It is possible to beat a drunk driving charge, although it is not typically an easy process. It will require a thorough understanding of the law and a thorough understanding of the technical nature of field sobriety tests, breath tests, and blood tests. Understanding the latter tests is critical to identifying errors (technical or human-made errors) to highlight the unreliability of the results.
Aside from errors or unreliable test results, an alleged DUI offender may have had their constitutional rights violated. This happens more often than you might imagine. A violation can lead to the inadmissibility of some or all evidence. Without sufficient evidence, the case will be dismissed, or a jury may return with an acquittal.
You will need a drunk driving defense attorney to help you beat an intoxicated driving charge. These cases can be highly technical, as much as legally complex.
Can I just plead guilty to drunk driving?
An arraignment is a hearing where the defendant can plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty. You can plead guilty, but the real question is whether you should or not. It would be a mistake to plead guilty at this time, especially without the counsel of a drunk driving lawyer in Loveland, Berthoud, Estes Park, Fort Collins, or Greeley, and there are multiple reasons for this.
- If you plead guilty immediately, you lose any opportunity to fight the DUI charge.
- If you plead guilty immediately, you also lose any opportunity for a plea deal, if that is what would be best in your unique circumstances. Admittedly, a plea deal means you would plead guilty, but the process can render a better outcome than an immediate plea of guilty. In some jurisdictions, you may be able to plead down to a lesser offense.
- The sentencing is often harsher when given in response to a plea of guilty during the arraignment, as opposed to what a plea deal can provide or a sentencing hearing after a plea is entered. The reason is simple: you have time to mitigate and negotiate.
If it's your first drunk driving charge, it can be tempting to plead guilty right away so that you can get the case over faster and get on with your life. But if you do not fight to get the charge dismissed or to get yourself acquitted, it will be your first drunk driving charge. With the latter on your record, you want to keep in mind that subsequent DUI convictions will assuredly lead to harsher penalties.
Do I need a drunk driving lawyer in Colorado to win my DUI case?
If you plan to fight your drunk driving charges, it is in your best interest to have an attorney represent you. The law can be complex. The evidence can be highly technical and scientific. Police and state expert testimony can be damaging. All these things can lead to a conviction, unless you have the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully counter them. Most alleged DUI offenders do not have that kind of knowledge and skills.
At The Harrell Law Firm, we know the law and the technical, scientific make-up of field sobriety tests, blood tests, and breath tests. We also know how to identify and proactively address any constitutional rights violations to benefit your case. Contact Sean P. Harrell today at 970-236-6576 to schedule a free initial consultation and get honest advice on your best legal options.