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Denver DUI/DWAI Law Blog

Increasing focus, regulatory response to DUID across the country

DUI-related stories and reports -- emanating from both Colorado and elsewhere across the country -- are increasingly citing data and other information germane to so-called "DUID" (driving under the influence of drugs) offenses.

And that is only natural, given the steady progression of states that are liberalizing their laws regarding the use of recreational and medicinal marijuana. Colorado is of course a vanguard state in that regard.

Wrongful convictions scandal: Could such a thing happen in Colorado?

If you read our blog posts chronicling criminal law stories and developments relevant to Colorado, you likely harbor no illusions concerning the uniform stance of state officials toward alleged drug-crime activities and their zero-sum insistence upon aggressively prosecuting and seeking harsh sentencing outcomes for offenders.

Indeed, although Colorado is widely perceived across much of the country as being an ultra-liberal enclave for drug-related activities, that is actually far from being the case. And many people find that out the hard way.

Marijuana DUI on the decline in Colorado

The first quarter statistics of 2017 has shown a drop of 33 percent in marijuana-related DUI traffic stops, which has been steadily declining each year. Even with the decline, officials are still skeptical about whether this decrease can be attributed to fewer drivers being under the influence or is simply linked to fewer drivers being stopped. While troopers have been arresting for marijuana DUIs for a long time, the testing relies on trooper assessment during the actual stop. Unless drivers are violating traffic laws or showing signs of impaired driving, they are not likely to be pulled over and assessed.

If rates are dropping, Why the skepticism?

Colorado's already harsh felony DUI law could become even tougher

Colorado authorities have never been compromising or lenient to any extent when it comes to prosecuting drinking-related offenses and seeking harsh outcomes for convicted offenders.

The state's felony DUI statute is a case in point. That enactment, which became law in 2015, makes a fourth and any subsequent DUI offense a felony, which materially ratchets up the potential for a truly dire sentencing outcome in a given case.

The three implied consent cases brought before the Colorado Supreme Court

The word is out that the Colorado Supreme Court recently heard arguments for appealing the state's DUI implied consent laws, based on a trio of appeals of lower court rulings. According to an article published in the Denver Post, the Colorado Supreme Court Justices ruled against the appellants' arguments in each case, thereby effectively upholding the laws as they are now written. 

Essentially, the expressed consent law means that every driver who gets behind the wheel in Colorado is subject to breath and blood alcohol tests if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that they are operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It's a strict law based on the premise that driving is a privilege in Colorado, not a legal right.

Proponents for implied consent laws argue that the law has significantly reduced the number of drunken driving accidents that result in injuries and fatalities throughout the state. Law enforcement agencies across the country are breathing a sigh of relief that the Colorado high court ruled in favor to uphold. If the judges had decided to weaken the DUI laws in this case, it likely could have set a precedent for other states to challenge their own implied consent laws.

Express consent: succinctly stated, yet not always crystal clear

The Colorado Supreme Court recently issued appellate rulings in three different DUI-related cases involving blood and breath testing, with a specific focus being upon the state's express consent law.

As indicated by numerous queries from Colorado motorists, as well as by court challenges and, indeed, the Supreme Court's perceived need to provide clarifying guidance, a clear understanding of what express consent means and entails is far from universal among drivers.

Are seat belts really as safe as we are told?

For decades, auto manufacturers have been under federal mandate to equip all cars made for American roads with seat restraints and, more recently, with front passenger airbags. The research regarding seat belts saving lives is irrefutable and most people today buckle up.

While 34 states have passed "primary enforcement" laws for front-seat riders, (meaning the police can issue a citation just for not wearing a seat belt), most have secondary enforcement laws, allowing police to add on a citation if they pull someone over for a different reason and discover someone in the car not wearing restraints. Colorado has passed a primary enforcement law as part of a child safety act. Police can pull over a driver and issue a citation if they spot a child riding unrestrained. 

Government power in drug-crime cases also notably includes this

We note on a relevant page of our website that Colorado's drug laws are in flux and constantly evolving. Given that reality, we duly point out that any state resident facing a criminal charge related to a crime like drug sale and distribution or drug trafficking might want to "seriously consider hiring a qualified drug defense lawyer to … navigate these extremely complex laws."

Findings from a recent government-authored report regarding so-called "civil asset forfeiture" underscore yet an additional concern that many individuals targeted as wrongdoers face, often unwittingly and without due regard -- or even a basic understanding -- of what that concern entails or its potentially frightening consequences.

Breath testing machines are not infallible. They need calibrating

A police officer stopped you. After talking to you, the officer suspects you of impairment. The officer requests a breath test, and you comply. The machine determines that your blood alcohol concentration level equals or exceeds .08 percent (Colorado's legal limit), and the officer places you under arrest for drunk driving. That's the end of it. Right?

Wrong. Like any other electronic device, breath-testing machines require routine maintenance and calibration to work properly. In addition, the officer using the machine requires training to do so properly and in accordance with established procedures. Even with training, however, mistakes happen. If anything goes wrong during the administration of the breath test, the court might not allow admittance of the results into evidence.

Colorado DWAI charge nothing to lightly shrug off for a motorist

If you are a Colorado motorist who just happens to have a fixation on acronyms in the criminal law realm (there are stranger preoccupations), this one might interest you: DWAI.

That jumble of letters stands for "driving while ability impaired." The subject matter is the focal point of a state statutory provision that both contains expansive language and mandates criminal outcomes -- sometimes notably harsh exactions -- for drivers convicted on a DWAI charge.