Charged with Driving under the influence of Alcohol or Drugs? As a DUI lawyer in Denver I have handled over a 1000 DUI cases in my close to twenty years of practice. Each case is different. Each case is unique. Each case always has something to dispute. The first step in a DUI case is to focus on how the police came in contact with the driver. Was there bad driving? Was there an accident? Was there a sobriety check point? Was the driver pulled over on the side of the road? Was there a REDDI report by a driver? There is always some reason, whether valid, for the police contact–otherwise you wouldn’t be disputing a DUI charge. The first point of dispute is whether the police stopped the individual and whether he/she had probable cause or reasonable suspicion for the contact.
After the contact, the police usually make sensory observations: smelling an odor alcohol or marijuana, hearing slurred speech, seeing bloodshot and watery eyes. The officer will often ask if you have been drinking or smoking–an admission of drinking or smoking will then put the officer in DUI mode. Now there are many reasons for the odor of alcohol–alcohol doesn’t smell. The officer has never heard you speak before so how does he/she know it is slurred? In Colorado, the dry climate may be one of many reasons for bloodshot and watery eyes. The sensory observations are meaningless. Once the officer has some of these observations and an admission of drinking, he or she will go back to his car and ask for a cover officer. The officers will then approach your vehicle and ask if you would do some voluntary roadside maneuvers. They are voluntary but the word voluntary seems to be lost on some defendants. There are often many explanations for the observations an officer makes in a driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs case.
The field sobriety tests are a chance for law enforcement to gather more evidence of intoxication. Rarely do they note evidence of sobriety. The HGN or horizontal gaze nystagmus is often the first test. The office is looking for an involuntary jerking of the eye. The next test is the walk and turn. I refer to this test as the front nine and the back nine. The officer gives you instructions on how to do the test. He doesn’t tell you how you will be scored. The final test is the one leg stand. A balance test. Now these tests are “STANDARDIZED” We all know you can not standardize an entire population of humans. We are all unique individuals. The field sobriety tests can be made useless by proper cross examination.
They are often administered incorrectly. They are often scored incorrectly. There are many reasons for nystagmus. They don’t give you the walk and turn and the one leg stand when they issue you a drivers license. There always some issue with the field sobriety tests. After the office finds that you did not complete the field sobriety tests as a “sober” person would, the officer may ask for you to do a roadside breath test or a preliminary breath test with a handheld device. The results are not admissible in any hearing but the result alerts the officer to the presence of alcohol. After the field sobriety tests and a PBT, the officer asks you to turn around and arrest you. Many variables to dispute with the field sobriety tests.
After the arrest, the officer will advise you of the express consent. Meaning you must give a blood or breath test. Now you can refuse the test however, you face a revocation of your license of at least one year with no driving. If you have a prior refusal, it may be more than one year. If you do agree to a blood or breath test, there are always issues with the blood or breath test. The Colorado Department of Health has regulations pages long detailing how the blood or breath test should be obtain. Often times the police officer conducting the breath test or the medic taking the blood test fail to follow the regulations. Mistakes are often made in obtaining the sample. Interpreting the result often gives rise to challenges. There is always something to dispute in the taking of the chemical test and the results.
So looking back at the stop, the sensory observations, the field sobriety tests and the chemical tests, there are many many areas to work with in defending these Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and or Alcohol cases. An experienced DUI lawyer can navigate through the evidence and mount a defense that gives you the best shot at the best result. Having an experienced DUI attorney by your side can make a world of difference in the defense of your case.