Judge’s Ruling on Breathalyzers Puts Colorado DUI Cases in Limbo

Most individuals are familiar with the process of being charged with a DUI, even if they have not directly been involved with one. Typically, you are initially pulled over for any number of reasons. This could include a burnt-out tail light, erratic driving, failing to yield the right of way, or any number of other potentially minor traffic violations. During the initial interaction with police, it may become apparent to law enforcement that you might be driving under the influence of alcohol. At that point, police officers may ask you to perform roadside sobriety testing including roadside breathalyzer tests. While you should always decline to perform these roadside tests, you will be required to submit to chemical testing at a police station if you are taken in under suspicion of driving under the influence. We have recently written about the uncertain fate of breathalyzer evidence in many Colorado DUIs, and Summit Daily reports that a Gilpin County judge has set a precedent on this issue that could affect hundreds of DUI cases.

The Issue

In 2016, a defendant was pulled over and ultimately charged for driving under the influence of alcohol but has insisted that he was not intoxicated while operating the vehicle. Typically, this is not an adequate defense and would not warrant much extra attention. However, breathalyzers used for chemical testing purposes need to be certified for accuracy by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. This certification is later filed in court to attest to the accuracy of the equipment in relation to its use in DUI cases. However, the signature that appeared on many of the certificates – specifically those related to the Intoxilyzer 9000 – bore the name of an employee who had no longer been overseeing the certification process even though her name had continuously been used on the certifications after she left the department.

Effects of the Ruling

The judge determined that the certificates filed were “inaccurate, misleading and deceptive” in a way that violated the defendants’ right to due process. The judge determined that the breathalyzer evidence was therefore inadmissible. According to the article, some lawyers have already received dozens of calls from clients seeking to overturn their prior DUI convictions on due process grounds. In fact, this ruling could affect hundreds of DUI cases in Colorado from between July 2015 and January 2017. Prosecutors have filed a motion to reconsider the ruling and will most likely appeal to a higher court if that is denied. However, even though Governor Hickenlooper’s office has stated that an internal investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing, it remains somewhat unlikely that an appeal would prevail especially since judges across the state have so far adhered to this judge’s ruling.

It is important to remember that this ruling does not affect every Colorado DUI from 2015 to 2017, nor does it impact the ability to introduce evidence related to the questionable breathalyzers when done a different way than what is typical in a DUI case.

Legal Assistance with Colorado DUIs

Facing a DUI in Colorado is an intimidating experience. However, working with an experienced Colorado DUI attorney who focuses on working with clients facing these types of charges can be an important part of a successful defense. Contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation and find out more information about what options might be available for your DUI defense based on your individual circumstances.

(image courtesy of Chris Montgomery)