What rights do Colorado drivers have when stopped at DUI checkpoints?

By knowing their rights when stopped at DUI checkpoints in Colorado, drivers may help protect themselves from unwarranted arrests and unnecessary penalties.

People are taken into custody on suspicion of drunk driving every day in Greely, and throughout Colorado. In fact, the state's Department of Transportation reports that more that there are more than 26,000 driving under the influence, or DUI, arrests every year. Not all of these arrests are clear-cut, however. Some drivers are taken into custody after being stopped at DUI checkpoints. In order to protect themselves from unwarranted drunk driving arrests, it is important for people to understand their rights during sobriety checkpoints.

Answering questions

At most DUI checkpoints, the first thing that law enforcement officers do is approach the stopped vehicles to speak with their drivers. Feeling obligated, many people answer their questions. Motorists should understand, however, that they do not have to talk to the authorities, particularly if they could potentially incriminate themselves by doing so.

Instead, people may choose to present law enforcement agents with a card stating they are exercising their constitutional rights. This includes the right not to talk to the officers until after they have consulted with their attorneys. Furthermore, drivers may ask to go on their way unless they are being placed under arrest.

Roadside tests

In addition to talking to drivers, law enforcement officers often ask them to perform field sobriety tests. These tests, which include the horizontal nystagmus gaze, one leg balance, finger to nose, and walk and turn, are completely voluntary. Often, the authorities fail to inform drivers they have the right to refuse when asking them to perform roadside testing.

While drivers have the right to refuse to perform field sobriety tests, doing so does not necessarily mean they will not be arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Rather, it may just make it more difficult for the authorities to prove their case at trial.

Chemical tests

In order to gain evidence and confirm their suspicions that they are under the influence, law enforcement agents commonly ask motorists at DUI checkpoints to perform preliminary breath tests. Generally, people may choose to not to perform these tests. For drivers who have not consumed any alcohol, however, submitting to a breath test may prove they have not been drinking.

Once placed under arrest, drivers are no longer able to refuse chemical testing, including breath, blood and urine tests. The Colorado Department of Revenue points out that drivers are must consent to chemical tests when the authorities have reason to believe they are intoxicated, or otherwise impaired. Should people decline to perform tests at this point, they could face serious penalties, on top of those they might incur if convicted of drunk driving.

Obtain legal representation

Drunk driving is considered a serious offense in Colorado. If convicted of DUI, people could face severe penalties with potentially long-term implications. As such, those facing alcohol-related charges may benefit from working with an attorney. A legal representative may help them establish a criminal defense, which may include questioning the circumstances of their arrests.