Denver Court and Your License
The judge in criminal court has no authority over your driver's license. However, the outcome in your court case may nonetheless result in a suspension over at the DMV. Some convictions will cause an automatic suspension at the DMV, and even minor convictions could result in excessive points if added together. Three or more serious traffic offenses within seven years can result in a five-year license suspension.
Request a DMV Hearing
The DMV makes their'own decision, independent from the court, as to whether to suspend your license for the DUI offense. You must request a hearing within seven days of your arrest in order to preserve your right to a hearing. This includes weekend and holiday days.
Driving Under the Influence Charges in Denver, Colorado
The Colorado legal limit is now 0.08. This means that your BAC or blood alcohol content must not exceed 0.08 grams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood (while you are driving). The lesser crime of DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) really isn't all that much lesser in the State of Colorado. Those who are convicted of DWAI generally receive sentences that are comparable to those for Diriving Under the Influence. The statute for DWAI states that you are guilty of the crime if you are driving while your ability is impaired to the slightest degree. These are the words that the jury will use to determine your guilt or innocence. If you have a B.A.C. of 0.05 or higher, the prosecutor is allowed to argue to the jury that you are presumed to be guilty. A good attorney can effectively rebut that presumption. The case against the accused may consist of one or both of the following: 1) The B.A.C.; or 2) Evidence of impairment. Effective defenses can be made to both, depending on the facts of the case.
Blood Alcohol Content
The procedures and testing equipment for determining a driver's Blood Alcohol Content are not perfectly accurate. The machines used in the test commit errors - and the officers giving the test make mistakes in following the test procedure. In addition, foreign substances in the mouth can throw off the results. You are allowed, under the law, to retest your blood or breath test sample. In fact, if a sample is not saved by the officer, and preserved properly, so that you may retest it, the blood alcohol evidence may be thrown out. If the retest shows a result that is significantly different from the original result - even if it is higher - the test may be shown to be scientifically unreliable, and again the evidence may be thrown out. Your B.A.C. is only relevant at the time you are driving. If the test is given to long after you are stopped, the results against you may be inadmissible. Further, because we do not absorb alcohol into our system immediately, your pattern of drinking on the day in question may cast doubt on the results of your test.
The Evidence of Impairment
The Evidence of Impairment: Who says!!...Whether you were impaired or not is a very subjective determination made by an officer who is not always objective. I do not remember ever seeing a DUI police report - in hundreds and hundreds of them - that did not include the words: "The subject had blood-shot watery eyes, slurred speech, and slow motor skills." Yet, from our personal experience we know that sometimes intoxicated people have blood-shot watery eyes, and sometimes they don't. The same is true for slurred speech or motor skills. While police officers are doing the much needed duty of keeping our roads safe, once you are accused they will use the language calculated to secure your conviction. The evidence of impairment against you may include:
- Your performance on the roadside tests or Field Sobriety Tests
- The officer's observations, such as blood-shot watery eyes
- Your statements to the officer
- Observations of your driving
Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests include walking in a straight line, balancing on one foot, reciting the alphabet, and so on. They may also include the "Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus" test, where you are asked to watch the tip of a pen as the officer moves it from side to side. Your performance on the roadside tests is, again, a subjective determination. Police officers are required to perform these tests in specific ways - many times the proper protocol is not followed. This may make the observed results invalid. If there is no observed bad driving, this may tend to disprove the assertion that you "failed" the field sobriety tests.
The penalties for DUI offenses have increased dramatically in recent years. Even first-time offenders may face mandatory jail time if their Blodd Alcohol Level. is high enough. Second or subsequent convictions can lead to significant jail sentences. If you have been designated a "Habitual Traffic Offender," your DUI may be charged as a felony. (You become a Habitual Traffic Offender by getting three convictions for either DUI or Driving Under Suspension within seven years.)
More DUI Information
For more information regarding penalties for Driving Under the Influence offenses, license suspensions, and answers to other common questions, please visit our DUI FAQ page and our DUI Penalty Chart page.
When I was stopped for DUI, the officer asked me questions? Was I required to answer them?
No! You have an absolute right to remain silent. Anything you say will always be used against you if it helps the prosecutor's case in any way. It is generally best to politely decline to answer any of the officer's questions.
The Officer did not read me my rights. Does this mean I will win in court?
No. An officer is only required to read you your Miranda warnings if you are placed "in custody" before asking you questions. A DUI traffic stop - and the investigation that the officer performs on you - is not legally considered "custody" for the purposes of your Miranda rights. (There are exceptions depending upon the situation.) Again, whether the officer tells you that you have a right to remain silent or not, REMAIN SILENT ANYWAY!
If I'm pulled over, do I have to do those roadside tests like walking a in a straight line, balancing on one foot, or touching my nose?
No, you do not. Those roadside tests, or "field sobriety tests," are voluntary. You have the absolute right to decline to do them, and you should. This is a situation where you will have to keep your wits about you. The officer may tell you step out of the car and give you instructions that sound like an order. Politely decline to do them and say no more. Do not offer an explanation, just say that "I would prefer not to do them."
Do I have to take a blood or breath test?
No you don't. However, if you refuse to take a blood or breath test, your license is likely to be revoked for one year. If you do take the test, and you get a result that is over the limit, you will likely have your license revoked for 90 days on a first offense. This is a judgment call on your part.
Whether you take one of these tests or not, you have a right to an administrative hearing with the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to determine if your license will be taken away. By requesting a hearing, you become entitled to keep your license until the date of the hearing. But whatever you do, don't go near alcohol and a car at the same time again! The penalties for repeat or multiple offenses can get serious fast.
As a side note, the blood or breath test you take at the police station is the one that matters. The small hand-held breathilizer that the officer may have with him on the side of the road does not count - the result can not be used against you in court, nor can your refusal to take it result in you losing your license. This small hand-held breathilizer is called a "PBT," or "Preliminary Breath Test."
The officer said I refused the chemical test. What does this mean?
The Colorado Express Consent law assumes that if you are driving on the roads of Colorado, you have automatically given consent to have your Blood Alcohol Content evaluated if an officer has reason to believe you have been drinking. This means the DMV has the authority to take away your license if you do not do so. However, at the same time you have the right to refuse the test based on your constitutional right to not incriminate yourself. Whether the DMV has a right to take away your license is a separate issue entirely from whether you have committed a crime.
What does "B.A.C." stand for?
B.A.C. is an acronym for "Blood Alcohol Content." It is a measurement of the amount of alcohol (measured in grams) in your blood. For example, the legal limit of 0.10 is reached when a person has 0.10 grams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of their blood. In the case of the breath test, a 0.10 is reached when a person has 0.10 grams of alcohol in 210 liters of their breath.
If I choose to take a chemical test, should I take a blood test or a breath test?
Choose the breath test. A breath test is less reliable than a blood test, and there are many factors that could make the breath result inaccurate. Your Denver DUI attorney may be able to have the breath sample retested which could save your license.
I have a DUI charge. How long will I lose my License?
If you refused the blood or breath test: ONE YEAR
If you took the blood or breath test: 90 DAYS
(For infractions occurring after 7/1/03, you may request 30 days of no driving at all, followed by 150 days (totaling 6 months) of restricted driving. There is no guarantee your request will be granted.)
What steps should I take to keep my license?
You, or your attorney, have seven (7) days from the time of your arrest / citation to request a hearing with the DMV. If you fail to do so, your license will be revoked automatically. The 7 day clock begins to run when you receive the Order of Revocation/Temporary Driver's License which is generally at the time you are arrested.
This temporary license is valid for only 7 days, unless you request a DMV hearing. If you request a DMV hearing within 7 days, then your temporary license will be extended until the DMV hearing (which can be as long as 60 days later).
What happens at the DMV hearing?
The DMV hearing officer will decide:
- Whether the officer had a valid legal reason to stop your vehicle.
- Whether the officer had a valid legal reason to arrest you.
- Whether the blood or breath test result is reliable enough to suspend your driver's license.
In cases where you refused to take the blood or breath test:
- Whether you were fully advised of the law, by the officer, before you refused to take the test.
If the hearing officer feels as though the statements are true, he will suspend your driver's license.
How do I request a DMV hearing?
You can request a hearing by going to almost any DMV office with the notice of revocation and your driver's license. They will take your drivers license if the officer has not already taken it from you. They will then issue you a temporary permit that is valid for up to 60 days or until you have your DMV hearing.
I am scheduled to appear in court on the DUI charge. Is this similar to a DMV hearing?
No. The court proceedings and the DMV actions are separate. The DMV hearing is an administrative proceeding regarding the suspension or revocation of your driving privilege only. However, a conviction in court can also restrict or suspend your driver license.
Why does DMV offer the right to a hearing if I am already scheduled to appear in court for the DUI charge?
Both our State and Federal Constitutions provide that no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law. Due process of law entitles you to a notice of the action DMV intends to take against your driving privilege and an opportunity to be heard, namely an Administrative Per Se Hearing.
Does the DMV hearing substitute for the court trial?
No. The DMV hearing and court trial are independent of each other. The DMV hearing deals with the circumstances surrounding a DUI arrest such as driving and the blood alcohol level or refusal to take a chemical test. The Court trial deals with whether you are innocent or guilty of a criminal act.
How many points can I get before I lose my Drivers License?
It depends on your age:
- If you are 16 to 17 years old:
6 points within any 12 month period, or
7 points since you've had your license
- If you are 18 to 20 years old:
9 points within any 12 month period
12 points within any 24 month period
14 points since you've had your license
- If you are 21 or older:
12 points within any 12 month period
18 points within any 24 month period
Points are counted on the day of the infraction, not the day you go to court, or plead guilty.
The District Attorney is offering me a plea bargain to a lesser charge with no jail, should I just take it?
All that glitters is not gold. A number of questions need to be answered first. If you were on probation at the time of your citation, you may be revoked on that probation even if the probation has since been completed. Your plea of guilty may also trigger a revocation of your deferred judgment and sentence (if you had one at the time). If your license was suspended at the time of the infraction, the DMV may extend your suspension based on your guilty plea. An attorney can help you sort all of this out and help you protect your license, not to mention your freedom.
Is jail mandatory?
Sometimes. Please refer to our DUI penalty chart to match your circumstances with the correct answer.