Colorado’s drunk driving laws can be tricky and complex. There’s much more to a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) than whether or not your blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. If you’ve been arrested and charged with DUI, or you just want to be prepared in the unfortunate event that you find yourself pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, here are some of the most common DUI questions I get as a Colorado Springs DUI attorney:
What is the legal limit for alcohol in Colorado?
How much alcohol you can legally have in your system – your blood alcohol content (BAC) – depends on who you are. The legal limit BAC for drivers over 21 years old is 0.08%, while the limit for drivers under 21 years old is a substantially lower 0.02%. If you hold a commercial driver’s license, the legal limit is 0.04%.
So, if I’m under 0.08 I’m in the clear, right?
Not at all. You can be charged with a criminal offense even if your BAC is below the legal limits set forth above. Specifically, DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) is triggered by .05% BAC or higher (but less than .08% BAC) if the officer determines that you were impaired to even the slightest degree.
Do I have to perform a field sobriety test if I’m pulled over?
If you have not been arrested, you are well within your rights to refuse an officer’s request to perform any field sobriety test, such as the “walk and turn” test, “one-leg stand” test, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, where the officer shines a penlight or other stimulus into your eyes and instructs you to follow it to the left and to the right. There are no penalties or consequences for refusing to do so and your refusal to consent to such testing cannot be used as evidence against you in court.
What about a Breathalyzer test? Can I refuse that too?
You may not know it, but you have already given your consent to submit to such a test if you’ve been arrested for DUI or DWAI. Under Colorado’s “express consent” law getting behind the wheel and driving on a road or highway in the state of Colorado means that you have consented to blood, breath or chemical testing if you have been validly arrested for suspicion of DUI or DWAI.
While you can refuse (or revoke your consent to) post-arrest blood, breath, or chemical testing in Colorado, doing so comes with some serious consequences, including license suspension and an ignition interlock. Additionally, your refusal to submit to post-arrest testing can be used against you at trial as evidence of your guilt. However, if you haven’t been arrested and an officer asks you to submit to a breath test on the side of the road, you can respectfully refuse the test like you can with the other field sobriety tests discussed above.
What are the possible penalties for a 1st time DUI conviction?
A first-offense Colorado DUI conviction can result in a number of criminal and civil penalties, including:
- A mandatory minimum of five days in jail with the possibility of spending up to a year behind bars, though jail time can usually be avoided with the completion of alcohol treatment, community service, and payment of fines;
- Fines of up to $1,000 plus hundreds of dollars in additional administrative, court and, treatment program costs;
- Between 48-96 hours of community service;
- A mandatory three-month suspension of your driver’s license;
- 12 points on your driving record
The penalties are stiffer for a first-time DUI if your blood alcohol content is .20% or higher. If someone is injured or killed, be prepared for consequences that reflect the seriousness of such an outcome.
If I blew above 0.08%, should I even try to fight the DUI charges?
Absolutely. You may be automatically charged with DUI if a breath, blood, or chemical test shows that your BAC was above the legal limit, but a conviction requires a lot more. Everyone charged with a crime in our criminal justice system is innocent until proven guilty. The burden is on prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated above the legal limit, and with a good Colorado Springs DUI attorney at your side who can challenge the legitimacy of the stop, attack the validity of the evidence, including the accuracy of the Breathalyzer or other test performed, and undermine the veracity of the witnesses against you, meeting that burden can often be extremely difficult. That is why you should call an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest.