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Can your broken headlight lead to DUI charges?

Whether you are the proud owner of a brand new, high-power turbo sports car, or you are happy driving the same old pre-owned vehicle you got a great deal on at the used car lot, car maintenance is a necessary part of keeping your car on the road. Regularly checking air pressure in tires, transmission fluid and all head, brake and tail lights for proper levels and functioning is a good habit most conscientious car owners have.

A well-maintained car can keep you out of trouble with the law. Nothing can ruin a perfectly good day like getting pulled over by a Colorado police officer because of a light that's not working or some other apparent vehicle violation. In fact, if you happen to get stopped just after dining out and having a few drinks with friends, your situation can quickly go from "nice night out" to "I am in serious need of legal help" in a matter of seconds.

Common reasons police make traffic stops

Obviously, if you want to prevent traffic citations and criminal charges related to alcohol, you can do your best to drive safely, keep your car in good running order and up-to-date on inspections, and avoid alcohol when planning to get behind the wheel. Knowing the most common reasons police pull people over might help as well:

  •  Speeding: Blowing by a cop at 10-20 miles per hour above the posted speed limit is a sure fire way of inviting trouble. This is one of the most frequent reasons police make traffic stops.
  • No turn signals: Whether you simply failed to use your turn signal at the appropriate time, or you are driving with turn signals that don't work, if a police officer witnesses you making a turn without proper signal use, he or she will most likely pull you over.
  • Erratic driving maneuver: Any vehicle that is swerving in its lane or randomly accelerating at speeds that don't coincide with the surrounding traffic pattern is a red flag that a driver might be acting under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If law enforcement does stop you, the results of the process that unfolds depends on various factors, including everything you say and do from that point on. An officer must tell you why he or she pulled you over. If reasons included suspicion of drunk driving, the situation is obviously serious since intoxicated driving is a crime, not a traffic violation.

Protecting your rights

Remembering the following can help you protect your rights and mitigate the circumstances of a traffic stop that turns into a drunk driving investigation:

  •  Admit nothing: Although many drivers think it's a good idea to simply tell the truth if asked whether they've been drinking, it is typically a better idea not to admit such things as anything you say can be used to incriminate you in court.
  • Declining field tests: There are no penalties for politely refusing to take field sobriety tests at the scene of a traffic stop. There are, however, often automatic penalties involved in refusing Breathalyzer tests or chemical testing.
  • Avoiding searches: An officer needs a valid search warrant to enter your vehicle or search your person. You are within your rights to disallow unwarranted searches.

Although you might have never considered how a broken headlight might lead to a DUI investigation, after the filing of charges, there is obviously little you can do except try to fight those charges in court. Many people in Colorado have successfully avoided DUI convictions and have managed to minimize any possible long-term consequences of their situations.

One of the easiest means for doing so is to retain an experienced attorney for skilled DUI defense representation.

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