Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Drunk Driving
Denver DUI lawyer James L. Finegan receives a lot of questions from people charged with DUI or the loved ones of people facing drunk driving charges in communities throughout the Colorado Front Range region.
This page provides general answers to some of the most common questions he has been asked. Of course, every DUI case is different, so contact Attorney James L. Finegan to schedule a free case consultation and case evaluation about your specific circumstances.
Should I have taken the field sobriety test or blood alcohol content (BAC) test administered by the police?
There really is no hard-and-fast answer to whether the driver should have taken the field sobriety test at the scene of the traffic stop or the BAC test. Like so much of the law regarding DUI, the answer depends on the circumstances of your traffic stop and arrest.
Before making a DUI traffic stop in Colorado, police must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver was under the influence of alcohol. It is routine procedure to ask the driver to follow a few simple directions such as walking in a straight line or touching the tip of the nose. This is commonly referred to as the field sobriety test. The manner in which the field sobriety test is administered is critically important to the driver’s DUI defense. Failing the field sobriety test gives police enough evidence to make an arrest, but not enough for formal DUI charges. A properly administered breath or blood test will determine whether the driver’s BAC is above the legal limit of .08 percent or higher. If so, a misdemeanor DUI charge may result. If the BAC is between .05 and .08, a misdemeanor DWAI charge may result.
Police will not necessarily adequately inform the driver of the consequences of refusing to take the field sobriety test or BAC test. Most drivers assume they have no choice. Under the law, drivers do have the choice to refuse to submit to a blood or breath test; however, a refusal may result in a one-year suspension of the driver’s license. This often comes as a surprise to drivers who were not adequately informed of this consequence prior to refusing the test. The driver will have to pursue a formal process to have the driver’s license reinstated.
If you feel you are not drunk, it is best to agree to take the BAC test. Submitting to the test, however, could give the prosecutor the evidence needed to prove that the driver’s BAC was indeed .05 or above at the time the test was taken. That will mean the driver must base the legal defense on issues such as probable cause for the traffic stop; was the BAC test administered in strict accordance with the law; were the results handled and interpreted correctly; was the driver fully informed of all legal rights and other issues not directly related to your BAC evidence.
The law regarding field sobriety and BAC tests is complex and involves in-depth understanding of legal rights and police obligations. In general, whether you have taken the test or refused, you will be faced with legal consequences. An experienced, skilled DUI defense attorney can help you fight to get the best possible outcome.
What if I already agreed to plead guilty?
No matter where you are in the DUI criminal process, it pays to hire an experienced lawyer. You may have agreed to a prosecutor’s offer without fully understanding the implications of the conviction or the penalties involved. Perhaps you didn’t fully understand your rights. An experienced DUI attorney will work with the prosecutor to find alternatives to the harsh penalties that can result.
Will I go to jail?
Colorado DUI penalties are tough. Jail can certainly be part of the final outcome. In fact, there is a mandatory minimum jail sentence of two days, which may be waived in lieu of an alcohol treatment program. Jail is mandatory if the driver’s BAC is .20 percent or higher or there is a prior DUI or DWAI. Prosecutors are often willing to work with an experienced DUI defense lawyer to find an outcome that will not result in jail time or result in less jail time, or other alternative punishment.
What about my driver’s license?
Following a DUI arrest, the driver’s license may be automatically suspended. The driver has seven days to request a hearing with the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). There are options for reinstating driving privileges under certain provisions.
It is important to have experienced legal representation for the DMV hearing because it is often the best opportunity to begin laying the groundwork for an effective legal defense for the criminal charges. It may happen that the police and prosecutors are unable to demonstrate strong evidence to make the DUI criminal charges stick.
This isn’t my first DUI. Now what?
There’s no question that repeat DUI offenders are treated more harshly by prosecutors and the courts. If you have a history of a DUI or a DWAI or an out-of-state DWI conviction on your record, you may be faced with mandatory time in jail, a very heavy fine and a lengthy driver’s license suspension. It is important to have an experienced attorney who understands strategies for minimizing the effects of a repeat DUI/DWAI offense.
Start With A Free Case Evaluation
This is an upsetting time for you and your family. Denver DUI lawyer James L. Finegan can answer your questions clearly and honestly. He will handle all of the details and help you come through this with the best possible outcome.
For more answers to DUI frequently asked questions, please go to these pages: