When the police suspect you of driving under the influence of alcohol, the experience is nerve-wracking even if you are not guilty. Unfortunately, many people in this situation are unaware of their rights and unknowingly end up helping police gather evidence against them.
The right to remain silent
If the officer asks probing questions, you can politely invoke your Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. It may not save you from arrest, but it will buy you time to speak to an attorney.
The right to refuse chemical or field sobriety tests
Due to Colorado’s “express consent” laws, refusing to consent to have your alcohol level tested will result in your driver’s license suspension for one year. You can fight the suspension at a hearing. You have the right to decline if the officer asks you to submit to a chemical test, either breath, urine, or blood. Breath tests can easily produce a false positive. The officer will likely arrest you, but an arrest does not equal a conviction.
Officers commonly ask drivers to participate in a field sobriety test when they suspect the driver is under the influence. These tests typically include actions such as standing on one leg or walking in a straight line. The laws governing these tests are very vague and subject to the officer’s discretion. You do not have to participate.
The right to refuse a search
In Colorado, officers are not obligated to tell drivers that they can refuse to allow the officer to search the vehicle. You also have the right to refuse a search if asked for consent. They can only search your vehicle without consent if there is a lawful arrest, something is in plain view, the officer is making a protective sweep, difficult circumstance, or inventory.
The bottom line
Every situation is different, but it is often better to be polite and refuse to test. Once arrested, it is time to contact a criminal defense attorney who can defend the accused and determine if there was a rights violation. By asserting your rights, the driver does not incriminate themselves. This cautious approach leaves it up to the officer to legally prove the driver broke the law.