What rights do Colorado drivers have when stopped at DUI checkpoints?

Being stopped at a DUI checkpoint could result in a drunk driving arrest, which is why it is important for Colorado motorists to understand their rights.

The Colorado Department of Transportation reports that 30,000 drivers are arrested in the state annually for driving under the influence of alcohol. For some of these motorists, their arrests may result after they are stopped at a DUI checkpoint. In order to protect themselves from unnecessary drunk driving charges, it may be important for people to understand what their rights are at these types of sobriety check stops.

Questioning

At DUI stops, law enforcement officers typically approach the vehicles and speak with the drivers. Based on what they observe during the discussion and how people respond to their questions, the authorities may choose to let them pass or to investigate further. Although they may feel obligated to do so, motorists should keep in mind that they do not have to talk to law enforcement. Instead, they may show them a card or flyer specifying their desire to exercise their constitutional rights, which includes not answering any questions without first consulting with their attorneys.

Roadside tests

When law enforcement suspect people are intoxicated, they often ask them to step out of their vehicles and perform a series of field sobriety tests such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn or the one-leg stand. When drivers perform poorly, they may be arrested for DUI. While they may not be informed of their right when the request is made, motorists do not have to perform these roadside tests - they are strictly voluntary. If a driver refuses to perform roadside testing, police and district attorneys may specifically not use that refusal as evidence of intoxication at trial or otherwise. Even if drivers have not been drinking, performing field sobriety tests are not recommended because even sober people can commonly fail such tests. For example, physical or mental health problems related to age, obesity, disability, inner ear, certain injuries or physical conditions can negatively impact roadside test results.

Chemical tests

Once they are arrested for drunk driving, people are typically asked to provide a breath or blood sample for chemical testing. Such tests are used to determine their blood alcohol content, or BAC level. However, under the state's express consent law, an officer first has to have reasonable suspicion to pull a driver over and then must develop probable cause that the driver is intoxicated and therefore subject to arrest in order to legitimately request a chemical test of the driver. In that narrow scenario, the law implies that the driver has agreed to chemical testing by exercising the privilege of driving. Therefore, in that situation they cannot refuse without facing legal consequences. Whether they are convicted of DUI or not, people who refuse legitimate chemical-test requests may be subject to a driver's license suspension for at least one year.

Obtaining legal representation

A DUI arrest may have an adverse effect on the personal and professional lives of people in Colorado. Thus, if they are stopped a sobriety checkpoints or are arrested for drunk driving, people may consider consulting with a legal professional. A lawyer may help look out for their interests and establish a defense aimed at limiting the short-term and long-term consequences of their arrests.