Most people are aware that driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal. Most individuals are also familiar with the standardized testing that law enforcement officers use to assess whether or not a person has been operating under the influence. These can include field sobriety testing, impairment-related questioning, and field breathalyzer testing. It is important to remember that you have the right to refuse to engage in any of these field sobriety testing measures. In fact, it is advisable that you decline to participate in them because participating in them will generally provide law enforcement with additional evidence to use against you. You will not lose your driver’s license for refusing these roadside tests, but doing so may lead to a mandatory blood test. It is important to understand the law governing such blood testing procedures, and the following provides some information for Colorado drivers.
Blood Test Basics
Blood tests are considered a search under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. That means that law enforcement officers cannot force an individual to submit to a blood test without establishing probable cause unless the individual consents to the blood test. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule which are discussed below. It is important to remember that through Colorado’s express consent law, you have already consented to blood draws when suspected of driving under the influence. Even in situations in which an involuntary blood draw provides evidence of driving under the influence, it can be used against you in court. Your refusal to submit to this chemical testing can also be used against you at a license revocation hearing where you risk losing your license for one year as a result of refusal.
Understanding Probable Cause
One of the most difficult aspects of understanding probable cause is that there is typically no consistent legal definition of what constitutes probable cause. Basically, establishing probable cause means that law enforcement needs more than a mere suspicion to pull you over. In other words, just because someone and/or his or her behavior is slightly suspicious, that does not give police probable cause to search that person. This prohibition on searches includes blood tests, so that means police need more than just a suspicion that someone was driving under the influence because they witnessed the individual swerving to establish probable cause for a forced blood draw.
However, the law typically requires law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant for a blood draw when an individual refuses to comply with the testing. Colorado law says force may only be used to obtain a blood sample in cases involving criminally negligent homicide, vehicular homicide, third degree assault, and/or vehicular assault. Unless law enforcement has probable cause to believe that the individual who has refused or is incapable of submitting to a blood test has committed one of these crimes, there is not statutory authority for officers to forcibly obtain a blood sample. In lieu of a blood sample, they can obtain breath, saliva, or urine samples to test for blood alcohol concentration.
Legal Assistance with Colorado DUIs
Colorado DUI charges are serious criminal charges that carry severe consequences if you are convicted. Making the choice to work with an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney who focuses on working with clients facing similar charges is an important first step in making sure that you do not have to face these charges alone. Contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation where you can find out more about the charges you are facing as well as what options might be available to you in your defense.
(image courtesy of Bethany Legg)