Imagine it’s the end of a long, challenging week at work and you finally have some free time to enjoy an evening out with some friends. Whether you have pizza delivered and enjoy a couple beers at someone’s house or gather at your favorite local pub, taking a little time to relax and enjoy the company of friends is a natural way to seek some R &R. If a Colorado police officer instructs you to pull over on your way home, your fun time may become extremely stressful.
In a perfect world, if you should happen to get pulled over when driving home after a night out with friends, the fact that you had one or two alcoholic drinks wouldn’t really matter. After all (even in the real world) just because you’ve had some alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a crime to drive afterward.
While the most obvious way to avoid potential problems is to abstain from alcohol if you plan on driving, the law does not consider the act of driving after consuming alcohol illegal unless your blood alcohol content exceeds the legal limit in the state where you were stopped by police or impairs your ability to drive.
An officer pulls you over: What should you do?
Driving privileges in this nation are just that: privileges. It bears repeating that a drunk driving charge is a criminal charge with varying degrees, not a traffic violation. If a law enforcement official pulls you over on your way home, and you know you’ve had a couple drinks containing alcohol, you may want to remember the following:
- Probable cause: Unless you were swerving all over the road, making random stops in the middle of the highway or otherwise acting erratically behind the wheel, chances are a police officer will stop for some other reason, such as suspected speeding or driving with a non-functioning brake light. It’s important to remember there must be some form of probable cause (meaning, the officer claims to have witnessed a traffic violation or possible criminal act) before you are pulled over. Lack of probable cause is one of the issues that your attorney could use to fight the charge.
- Admit nothing: Although you likely increase your chances of a positive outcome by being cooperative and polite when interacting with authorities, you are usually better off not saying anything, especially admitting fault. In fact, aside from questions regarding basic personal information, you need not discuss the situation further without legal representation present.
- Answer by asking: Some say it’s better to answer direct questions regarding whether you’ve been drinking alcohol by asking another question to the officer in return. Asking if the officer would like to see your license or whether you have broken some sort of traffic law helps avoid saying something that is potentially incriminating. The best question to ask is, “May I speak with an attorney first.”
If, at any point, you are placed under arrest and charged for driving under the influence of alcohol, remember it’s not the number of drinks you consumed, but the alcohol content level in your blood and other potential factors that determine whether you were legally operating your motor vehicle at the time.
Refusal to submit
Can you refuse an officer’s request to submit to chemical testing? Yes, you can – whether you should, however, is another matter. In Colorado and many other states, there are automatic repercussions for refusing to take chemical tests that often include drivers’ license suspensions.
To search or not to search
Your friends and family may tell you never to allow a police officer to search your vehicle unless appropriate authoritative permission (such as a search warrant) has been shown. You might think it’s best to just go ahead and let the officer look through your car, especially if you know you only had a couple drinks earlier in the night, but such decisions have the potential to act against you if charges are filed at some point.
If you believe there has been a violation of your rights, you can seek immediate assistance from a skilled defense lawyer who knows what process to follow to challenge charges and/or evidence in court. The perfect world mentioned above obviously doesn’t exist; therefore, it’s typically best to act right away to secure experienced assistance if you plan to fight DUI charges in court.