The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we do things. Once maskless, now many people wear masks when they are in public places, vaccinated or not. Stores provide readily available hand sanitizer. Even drinking fountains have been shut down and may never return.
For law enforcement in Colorado and throughout the nation, the health crisis presented specific challenges in keeping them and criminal suspects safe. Once standard operating procedures, Breathalyzer tests represented a quandary in investigations and enforcement, with some police officers in Colorado Springs skipping that all-important step.
A new policy placing a pause on breath tests
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Colorado Springs Police Department (CPSD) suspended alcohol breath tests from March 2020 to February 2021. However, that did not stop them from pulling over and subsequently arresting those suspected of driving under the influence.
The policy caught the attention of an El Paso County Judge who claims that law enforcement violated drivers’ rights by failing to conduct breath tests on DUI suspects.
The CPSD was in the minority in their nearly one-year breath test sabbatical. Most police agencies and the State Patrol were continuing to administer breath tests. Notification to the Department by the Colorado Department of Public Health detailing safer methods for DUI breath testing seemingly went ignored.
A court order issued on July 16 by a county judge found that drivers’ rights were violated by being denied their rights under DUI express consent law by being denied a breath test. The judge also claimed that the CSPD failed to consult with any doctors or subject matter experts.
The aftermath could impact between 1,000 to 4,000 DUI cases.