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If you drive a car in Denver or other parts of Colorado, you’ve probably seen sobriety checkpoints, also known as DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoints. Unlike many other states, Colorado does not make DUI roadblocks illegal but drivers in Colorado must understand their legal rights during these checkpoints to protect themselves from unwarranted arrests. It’s important to speak with a Denver DUI attorney to learn more about your responsibilities and rights at a sobriety checkpoint. 

Where are DUI checkpoints legal or illegal in the U.S.? 

Under the U.S. Constitution, sobriety checkpoints are generally legal; however, many states have their own laws and statutes that affect the legality of DUI roadblocks. According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, eight states prohibit sobriety checkpoints. The following states that make DUI roadblocks illegal under the state constitution, law, or statute are:

    1. Rhode Island (state constitution) 
    2. Oregon (state constitution)
    3. Michigan (state constitution)
    4. Minnesota (state constitution)
    5. Washington (state constitution)
    6. Idaho (state law)
    7. Wisconsin (statute)
    8. Wyoming (statute)

Meanwhile, the rest of the U.S., including California, Florida, New York, and the District of Columbia make DUI roadblocks legal as part of their efforts to combat drunk driving. While Colorado is also among the states where DUI checkpoints are legal, a roadblock can be deemed unlawful if the law enforcement violates guidelines for sobriety checkpoints. 

When are DUI roadblocks illegal in Colorado? 

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) warns motorists of upcoming sobriety checkpoints by posting advance notice of DUI roadblocks. Often, law enforcement in Colorado conducts sobriety checkpoints during specific holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, St. Patrick’s Day, and other holidays when alcohol consumption is high. Nevertheless, DUI checkpoints are illegal if they violate CDOT’s guidelines for sobriety roadblocks:

  • The roadblock poses too much inconvenience to motorists or creates traffic hazards 
  • The officers use a discriminatory procedure for choosing which vehicles to stop 
  • Failure to give adequate warning to drivers to inform them of the upcoming roadblock 
  • The department did not have official procedures to conduct the DUI checkpoint 
  • The officers set up a roadblock in an unsafe location 
  • The officers were not adequately trained to conduct the checkpoint 
  • The department failed to publicize the sobriety checkpoint before setting up the roadblock
  • Failure to assure the safety of the general public and police officers involved
  • The lack of approval from the police agency to conduct the DUI checkpoint

While the law enforcement’s failure to comply with the guidelines does not automatically make the DUI checkpoint illegal, it provides a solid ground for challenging the traffic stop and getting the DWI, DWAI, or other charges dropped or dismissed. Contact the skilled Denver DUI attorney at the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC to investigate your particular case and help you prove that the sobriety checkpoint was illegal due to police violations of CDOT guidelines. 

What happens during a DUI checkpoint in Colorado?  

At a DUI checkpoint in Colorado, you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, although this refusal can result in suspension of your driver’s license.
Warning: At a DUI checkpoint in Colorado, you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, although this refusal can result in suspension of your driver’s license.

 

When a police officer pulls your car over at a DUI checkpoint, you will be asked to roll down the window. The officer will request to see your driver’s license and registration, and you are legally required to comply with the request. 

The police officer may suspect that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs if: 

  • The motorist has difficulty finding or handing over their license and registration 
  • The officer smells alcohol or marijuana in the vehicle
  • The officer sees an open container of alcohol, illegal substances, marijuana, or drugs in the car
  • The driver manifests signs of impairment, including slurred speech, bloodshot or watery eyes, slowed reaction, and others

If the police officer suspects a DUI, they will ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and may request the motorist to take a field sobriety test and/or a breath test, also known as the preliminary alcohol screening test. Note: The results of these tests can be used as evidence of impairment in your DUI case. Know that the field sobriety test and the breath test are optional, which means you have a right to refuse to take these tests without facing any legal repercussions. 

However, if the officer has a reasonable belief that the driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs, they can arrest the motorist for DUI of alcohol or drugs, DUI “per se” (when the blood alcohol concentration exceeds .08%), DWAI by alcohol or drugs (when the BAC level is between .05% and .08%), or underage drinking and driving (UDD)

Upon your DUI arrest, the officer will request you to take a blood test or evidential breath alcohol test. You have the option to choose between these two chemical tests. Under the C.R.S. § 42-2-126, a driver can face the following penalties for refusing to submit to a chemical test: 

  • Revocation of the driver’s license 
  • Designation as a “persistent drunk driver” (PDD), which requires a minimum 2 year interlock device in your vehicle as a mandatory term of driver’s license reinstatement
  • Mandatory drug and alcohol treatment and education program
  • Mandatory installment of an ignition interlock device (IID)

In addition to the above consequences, your refusal to take the chemical tests will be used against you as evidence of guilt in court.

Fight unlawful DUI checkpoints with a Denver criminal defense attorney

If you were stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Colorado and were arrested for driving under the influence, don’t hesitate to contact our DUI defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC to help you fight the charges and protect your driving privileges and rights. Give us a call at (303) 635-6768 to receive a free consultation. 

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While Colorado does not prohibit DUI checkpoints, police must still comply with state-provided guidelines such as giving advanced warning of roadblocks.

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