When it Comes to Drunk Driving, Just Say No at Every Point

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom from "unreasonable searches and seizures." Similarly, the Colorado state constitution secures that same right to its people. Over time, courts have laid out how that right applies to traffic stops in general and DUI stops in particular.

However, your rights may also depend on a number of factors. Did the police officers act appropriately at your stop? Was your arrest legal? What did you tell the officers during the traffic stop? Do you have a Boulder DUI lawyer representing you?

What Can a Police Officer Do at a Traffic Stop?

A police officer may pull a vehicle over if he or she reasonably suspects a crime (even a minor traffic violation) has been, or will be, committed. The officer may ask the driver and passengers for identification, may ask questions related to the offense being investigated and may even ask the suspect to get out of the vehicle. If there are possible safety issues for the officer, he or she may pat down the driver and passengers for weapons and may search the car's passenger compartment.

Police may also conduct sobriety checkpoints. At sobriety checkpoints, cars are briefly stopped (even without reasonable suspicion) while officers look for signs of driver impairment. However, the police must give advanced notice of the sobriety checkpoint to allow drivers to avoid the checkpoint without consequence.

How Easily Can a Police Officer Pull Me Over?

Police officers can pull you over for even the most minor of traffic offenses. Driving too slowly, failing to signal before a lane change or even having a dirty license plate are all valid reasons for a traffic stop.

For that reason, the safest choice is to not drink and drive at all. If such restraint is out of the question, be ready when the police lights go on to pull over at the first safe opportunity, roll down your window and put both hands on the steering wheel.

What Do You Do When Stopped for a DUI?

The most important thing to know for a DUI traffic stop is that the only information you have to give an officer is what is on your license and registration (make sure to have that documentation readily available). Though you have a constitutional right to remain silent, being respectful and cooperative (with vague answers) will avoid drawing attention. Nevertheless, do not admit to drinking alcohol and never mention if you are coming from a party or a bar.

You must obey an officer's request to get out of your car, but you have the right to (courteously) refuse to perform any field sobriety tests (i.e. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk-and-Turn, One-Leg Stand, etc.). In Colorado, you are required to take a chemical test (blood test, breath test, saliva test or urine test) if the officer believes you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Refusal is grounds for driver's license revocation.

While most people want to be cooperative with the police, the best policy is to be polite but only give them what you have to. The last thing you want to do is give them evidence admissible in court against you. Furthermore, if you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation and your rights.

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