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DUIs and Your Rights during a Traffic Stop

This past fall, 1,400 people were arrested during DUI crackdowns across the state. Driving under the influence may seem harmless because it’s just so common and it’s only a minor misdemeanor. But the truth is, impaired driving is one of the top three causes of fatalities and injuries in all traffic cases.

The authorities take these things very seriously — and they should, considering that the results of an unsober mistake can be drastic. However, there are still rules that govern DUIs. Not to mention that people who are under investigation for driving under the influence still have rights. 

Here’s what usually goes on during an encounter with the authorities and how your rights might be impacted. 

  1. The police will ask for a driver’s license.

After a police officer asks a vehicle driver to pull over, they will walk over to the vehicle and ask for a driver’s license. And during this time, they will be watching for indications of alcohol or drug consumption. Some things they will keep an eye out for are:

  • Red, watery bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Smell of alcohol
  • Vomit
  • Bottles of alcohol or packs of drugs
  • And other indicia 

All these come into play to help a police officer determine if a person is fit to drive or is driving under the influence. 

  1. The police will ask the driver to exit the vehicle.

If the police officer is not convinced of the driver’s sobriety and capability to drive, he or she will be asked to get out of the car. And this is a mandatory act that the driver has to comply with. Worth noting is that at this moment, a driver does not have the right to remain in their vehicle or call their attorney. 

The police officer will then ask the driver to walk back to their vehicle. And while this happens, the officer is watching if they’re stepping off the road, slurring their speech, or losing their balance. 

  1. The police will ask questions. 

After getting back to the vehicle, the police will take some time to ask a few questions like where the driver is coming from, if they’ve had anything to drink, if they used any drugs, etc. These types of investigations do not require the Miranda warnings where the officer notifies a person of his or her right to remain silent, right to call an attorney, etc. It does not apply in these situations. 

What you shouldn’t do

  1. Voluntarily do a roadside maneuver

Many drivers who are being investigated on the spot for driving under the influence make the mistake of doing a voluntary roadside maneuver. But this is one thing that shouldn’t be done in these situations because it’s not going to help the driver at all. Even if they ace it, it doesn’t prove anything nor will it immediately free them from arrest. 

The thing is, even a person who isn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol will have a difficult time doing a roadside maneuver. It’s hard and anyone can easily fall over, especially when under pressure. Doing this while under investigation can only further hurt a DUI case. 

  1. Take the portable breath test

A portable breath test is a small device that can determine the sobriety of a person who blows into it. Some police officers may ask drivers to take this. But these tests are very inaccurate, which is why they cannot be used as evidence in court. So it’s advisable that drivers don’t take them at all. 

Expressed Consent

By driving on the road in Colorado, drivers give the express consent to give a sample of their blood or breath if an officer believes that they have driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And when asked by a police officer to do either of the two, a driver doesn’t have the right to contact an attorney first or demand that he be informed of his Miranda rights. 

It’s advised that a driver just choose either test. Should they refuse to, the police officer will take their driver’s license and they will have to go through the DMV to get another one. 

Also, not taking a test would hurt a person’s DUI case. The opposing attorney can easily say that he or she would have taken the test if they weren’t driving under the influence. So refusal will make the process much longer and result in the suspension of the driver’s license. 

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JP
Prentiss

Partner

Boulder

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