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COMMITTED TO PROTECTING YOU

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Colorado court weighs in on DUI-linked forced blood testing

| Jan 11, 2021 | Blood Alcohol Tests

Following is a scenario relevant to the discussion of forcible restraint used by Colorado police officers to extract blood from a suspected drunk driver. The story outlined below conveys in summary form a real-life situation that played out on a Fort Collins roadside.

Officers there had probable cause to suspect that a driver in a parked car was legally drunk. A records check revealed that the motorist had multiple prior DUI convictions. Police found him to be uncooperative and ultimately drew blood from him following the use of force. They acted only after they first secured a search warrant. The test results indicated a blood-alcohol content significantly higher than the threshold BAC required to make a drunk driving arrest.

The central question that prominently surfaced on appeal before a court appellate panel was this: Can police officers with probable cause routinely conduct forcible blood draws and other tests on DUI suspects after securing a judicial warrant?

The panel’s unanimous ruling: No, they cannot. The use of forcible tests is limited to instances where proof exists that a suspect has committed one of four crimes specifically enumerated under Colorado statutory law.

Those offenses are homicide, vehicular homicide, assault or vehicular assault.

None of those offenses applied to the defendant. The panel reversed his conviction and ordered a new trial, stressing that evidence relevant to the forced blood draw should have been suppressed at trial.

In doing so, the court underscored that limiting the use of forced draws – even with probable cause and a secured warrant – does not straitjacket police officers seeking to do their jobs. Under Colorado’s implied consent law, drivers agree to testing requested by law enforcers. Refusal to cooperate can subsequently be introduced as incriminating evidence in a DUI trial.

Questions about probable cause, warrants and DUI testing can be directed to a proven and results-oriented Colorado criminal defense legal team.

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