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What to Do/Not Do When Pulled Over for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Colorado

Your chances of being pulled over by police are heightened when you are driving during the late evening and early morning hours. Statistics show that more people are likely to be driving drunk during these hours. Police are keenly aware of this fact and are particularly vigilant about looking for reasons to pull cars over during these hours (for speeding, failing to stay within a lane, failure to signal, and so on). Of course, the best defense against a DUI is not to drive at all after consuming alcohol or drugs, regardless of the time.

If, however, you are stopped and suspected of DUI, I suggest the following guidelines:

1. Credentials

Have your credentials (license, registration and insurance) ready. Police will look for slow and fumbling hand movements as indications of intoxication.

2. Lights & Hands

Immediately put the car interior light(s) on and place your hands where the officer can see them. The police do not know you, and are first and foremost concerned for their safety (and the safety of other innocent citizens)–seeing your hands eliminates a possible threat.

3. Be Polite

Be polite and courteous at all times. Do not challenge the officer’s integrity or authority.

4. No Unnecessary Chit-Chat

Do not believe you can talk your way out of a DUI charge. Police are duty-bound to do their jobs, including arresting someone they reasonably believe is driving under the influence. Trying to talk your way out of an arrest will usually backfire by being used against you later as an admission of your guilt.

5. Loaded Questions

Do not answer any questions regarding whether you consumed alcohol. Politely and respectfully tell the officer that you would like to speak with an attorney before answering any questions.

6. Field Sobriety Tests

There is a school of thought that suggests that you should never agree to perform roadside sobriety tests (the heel to toe, the one-leg stand, the finger to nose, and so on). Each case is different, and therefore whether to agree to perform roadside tests is, in my opinion, a difficult question to answer yes or no. The danger in refusing to perform the tests is that your refusal will be regarded by most Colorado juries as strong circumstantial evidence of guilt. The jury may conclude that you did not perform the tests because you would have failed miserably (because you were drunk).

I see far too often, however, clients who cooperate with the police to such an extent that they agree to perform tests that their physical condition(s) prohibit (for example, they may be exhausted or fatigued, have serious medical ailments such as back or knee problems, and so forth). If you suffer from any ailment(s) that would prohibit or limit your ability to perform the tests asked of you, you should inform the police and politely tell him that you would be unable to do the test(s) because of your condition. Be prepared to fully document your condition with medical reports and records if your case goes to trial.

7. Breath Tests

Always agree to give samples of your breath. While you should refuse field sobriety and hand-held breathalyzer tests, take the breath test at the police station. You are under no legal obligation to perform a field sobriety test or a roadside breathalyzer test, and it is highly recommended that you refuse to take either of these tests, as they are highly subjective and can be easily skewed to bolster the case against you and in favor of the prosecution.

In contrast to the optional field sobriety and roadside breathalyzer tests, you are obligated by law to take a breath or chemical test at the police station (do not confuse the two types of breathalyzer tests). It is recommended that you choose to take the breath tests because they’re more unreliable, and thus their validity can be more effectively challenged in court. On the other hand, refusing a breath or chemical test can be used as evidence at a trial of an implied admission of guilt, resulting in a DUI or DWAI conviction and/or drivers license suspension.

Defending a DUI charge, even with a high-breath reading, is almost always preferable than defending a DUI and refusal charge.

Again, be polite and deferential with the police. The time and place to challenge the authority and procedures of the police is in the courtroom, not during the arrest and processing.

Exercise your right to remain silent–tell the police that you respectfully decline to answer any questions without counsel present. Most clients feel compelled to make statements; however, giving statements is almost always tantamount to helping the state dig your grave.

One exception is that if the police ask you if you are sick, under the care of a doctor, or suffer from diabetes, provide an answer if your ailment would affect your mental or physical abilities (and, therefore, make you appear intoxicated). Do not answer questions regarding any drugs you are taking.

8. Blood Test

Ask and demand that the police allow you an opportunity to get blood drawn at a local hospital. The police must have a procedure in place to afford you this right.

9. Document

As soon as possible, write down everything you can recall about the stop, the questions asked, and the arrest. Take pictures of the scene of the stop and the location of the roadside tests. If you suffered from a medical condition that would have affected your ability to have performed the balance tests or that would otherwise make you appear intoxicated, immediately start gathering the medical records and reports to support this claim.

10. Counsel

Hiring an attorney as soon as possible after the arrest (prior to your first scheduled appearance before the court) is to your benefit–delaying hiring counsel may hurt you.

11. Contact an Experienced DUI Attorney

If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI or DWAI in Boulder County, the single most important thing you can do for yourself is to find a qualified Colorado DUI attorney practicing in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, Elbert, Larimer, Boulder or any other Front Range County who has at least 15 to 20 years experience, as well as a thorough understanding of both Colorado DUI law and the Colorado court system. This individual should have a good working relationship with each of the county DA’s offices since most DUI cases are resolved without going to trial.

You need an attorney who understands and can think like the prosecution so that they are able to communicate and effectively work with each other.

The consequences of a DUI conviction can be a permanent detriment to your quality of life in a wide variety of ways so it’s extremely important to choose your DUI defense attorney carefully.


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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