CO Department of Health Blood Tests Inaccurate

In going through some police reports earlier this week, we came across a memo from the toxicology lab supervisor at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The supervisor reported in her memo that several blood samples analyzed by a particular lab analyst who worked at the Department of Health were inaccurate. The lab supervisor stated that as of March 21, 2012, she knew of “5 samples that were reported outside of the appropriate reporting range.” These samples were retested and new reports of the results were to be issued. The lab at the Department of Health is going to retest approximately 1,700 samples tested by this particular lab analyst, who was fired for unsatisfactory performance on March 14, 2012.

The toxicology lab at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment tests DUI blood samples that are submitted by police agencies from across the state. This episode is reminiscent of an incident reported in late 2009 by the Colorado Springs Metro Crime Lab where the blood alcohol results were found to be incorrect in 167 cases. The Colorado Springs crime lab identified the inaccurate tests were due to an inadequate amount of the internal standard n-propanol being added to the blood sample prior to analysis. After this problem was uncovered, the Colorado Springs Police Department began sending its blood samples to the Colorado Department of Health for testing.

At this point, the cause of the inaccuracies in the results of the blood tests performed by the Colorado Department of Health has not been reported. In our office, we found a handful of tests that were performed by the fired technician that are firm, Daniel, Thom and Katzman, is handling. We do not know what impact this problem will have on cases throughout the state. We will post additional information when it becomes available.

OVER 400 DUI ARRESTS IN COLORADO DURING ST. PATRICK’S DAY WEEKEND

This week, the Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation released statistics for DUI arrests over the St Patrick’s Day weekend. 112 agencies reported a total of 424 DUI arrests in Colorado for the 4 day weekend (Friday to Monday). 50 people were charged with DUI in El Paso County. By agency, that figure is broken down as follows: the Colorado Springs Police Department arrested 36 people for DUI; The State Patrol in Colorado Springs made 4 arrests; The El Paso County Sheriff’s Department reported 6 arrests and 3 other agencies in El Paso County made 4 arrests.

If you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones who were arrested, you should contact an experienced Colorado Springs DUI lawyer for help. Those who submitted to a blood test, should be receiving a revocation order from DMV in the next few weeks if your BAC result was over .08.  That order requires you to act quickly to avoid the immediate revocation of your driver’s license.  If you would like to discuss your particular case and how a Colorado Springs DUI attorney can help you, please call us for a free initial consultation.

DMV ANNOUNCES ONLINE RESERVATION SYSTEM

Tired of the two or three hour wait at DMV? The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles announced a new program that it hopes will reduce waiting times at DMV. Called the “Wait Less” program, the state unveiled an on-line computer reservation system on March 15, 2012. The program will allow the scheduling of appointments online that is designed to cut the waiting times at DMV offices. A kiosk station will checkin  people when they arrive at the DMV office. This program is only available at the main DMV office at 1881 Pierce Street in Lakewood.  DMV has plans to expand the service to other cities, including Colorado Springs, by the end of the year. You can use the service at https://www.colorado.gov/apps/jboss/dor/online/appointment/scheduling/index.xhtml

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Law Introduced in Colorado Senate

A bill  involving driving under the influence of marijuana and other drugs was recently introduced in the Colorado Senate by Senator Steve King, a Mesa County Republican.  The bill, SB 12-117,  expands the existing definition of “DUI per se” to include driving when the driver’s blood, or saliva contains any amount of a schedule I controlled substance, except for THC (tetrahydrocannabinols) ; salvia divinorum; or synthetic cannabinoids, and driving when the defendant’s blood contains 5 nanograms or more of THC.

The bill states that in any prosecution for  driving under the influence (DUI), driving while ability impaired (DWAI), vehicular assault, or vehicular homicide, there is a permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence of drugs,  if at the time of the commission of the alleged offense, or within two hours thereafter, the defendant’s blood, or saliva contains any amount of a schedule I controlled substance, except for THC; a schedule II controlled substance; salvia divinorum; or synthetic cannabinoids, or the defendant’s blood contains 5 nanograms or more of THC.

The bill also creates a “zero” tolerance if the defendant’s blood, or saliva contains any amount of:

  • a schedule I controlled substance, except for THC;
  • a schedule II controlled substance;
  • salvia divinorum;  or
  • synthetic cannabinoids.

The bill passed the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a 4-1 vote.  It was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration because it carries a fiscal note of approx $600,000.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs is a complicated and changing area of the law.  If you have been charged with DUI, you should consult with an experienced Colorado Springs DUI lawyer to review your case. Call us at 719-578-1183 for a free initial consultation.

Colorado Court of Appeals Prohibits Medical Marijuana For Man On Probation

On February 2, 2012, a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that a trial court was wrong to approve the use of medical marijuana by a defendant on probation. In the case of People v. Leonard Watkins, Mr. Watkins pled guilty to a felony in Arapahoe County and was placed on probation for 6 years. Among his conditions of probation, Mr. Watkins was not to violate any laws and not use or possess any narcotic, dangerous or abusable substance without a prescription. Soon after being placed on probation, Mr. Watkins received a certificate from the State of Colorado for the medical use of marijuana. The Probation Department asked for direction from the court and the court entered an order approving Mr. Watkins’ use of medical marijuana. The District Attorney appealed the court’s order approving medical marijuana.

The Court of Appeals noted that the use of marijuana even for medical purposes is a violation under federal law and thus would violate Mr. Watkins’ condition of probation that he not commit any new offenses while on probation. Colorado’s medical marijuana amendment did not offer any protection for Mr. Watkins because it is not a prescription from a doctor but a certification that the patient has a debilitating medical condition and might benefit from the medical use of marijuana. Based on this, the Court of Appeals held that the physician’s certification was not a written lawful prescription that was required under the terms of Mr. Watkins’ probation. Finally, since probation is considered a privilege and reasonable conditions of probation can be imposed that curtail a probationer’s rights, any constitutional right to use medical marijuana in Colorado may be curtailed during the term of Mr. Watkins’ probationary sentence.

 

Colorado Springs Homicide Rate Increases 33%

According to recently released statistics, Colorado Springs saw a 33 percent increase in homicides in 2011. The 32 homicides committed in 2011 is the largest number committed in Colorado Springs in one year. Although Colorado Springs saw such a large percentage increase in homicides, the 2011 murder rate is close to or lower than comparably sized cities in Colorado and the United States.

At the end of 2011, the Colorado Springs Police Department had 622 officers.
With a population of approximately 415,000 people, Colorado Springs has 669 residents for every police officer. By comparison, other large cities in Colorado have a lower ratio — Aurora has 509 residents per officer and Denver has 422 residents per officer.

MADD Pushing to Increase Use of Ignition Interlock

According to a recent article on the website carinsurance.com, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will be making a push across the country for states to enact laws requiring convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices in their cars. Only 14 states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington – currently require ignition interlock devices for every convicted drunk driver. In Colorado, a person is required to install the interlock if they are convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), have multiple drinking and driving convictions, or were revoked for having a BAC above .08.

New Mexico has seen a 35% reduction in drunk-driving fatalities since it passed its ignition interlock law. Drunk driving deaths have been reduced by 46% in Arizona since 2007. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the interlock reduced second offense rates by 67%.

Update:   A bill has been introduced in the US House of Representatives to offer additional highway funds to states that require ignition interlock devices for DUI offenders.

Supreme Court Rules GPS Tracking is a Search

A unanimous United States Supreme Court ruled on January 23, 2012 that the Government’s attachment of a GPS tracking device to a vehicle and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements on public streets constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In the case of United States v. Jones, the Government installed a GPS tracking device on a vehicle and monitored its movements for 28 days. The Fourth Amendment protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”. Since the Government did not have a valid search warrant for use of the GPS device, the evidence obtained from the GPS was suppressed.

Having a good Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney representing you is critical when important constitutional issues come up in your case. Call Daniel, Thom & Katzman, PC if you have questions about this or any other issue.

The Persistent Drunk Driving Act of 1998

As a consequence of The Persistent Drunk Driving Act of 1998, the Persistent Drunk Driving Committee formed in an effort to develop and implement programs aimed at deterring persistent drunk and drug-related driving.   The PDD Committee consists of several state agencies including the Colorado Department of Human Services, State Judicial Branch, Department of Transportation, and the Department of Revenue.  (According to Colorado state law, a persistent drunk driver is defined as someone who has two or more alcohol or drug related driving violations of someone with a BAC of .17 or higher—even if it’s the first offense.)

Recently, state agencies on the PDD developed and published a new website aimed at providing individuals the resources they need for answering question they may have concerning DUIs.  The website, www.NoDUIColorado.org, provides a wealth of information that can potentially help individuals make informed decisions regarding impaired driving and behaviors associated with substance abuse.  For example, the new website features an interactive Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) calculator and also provides them with an opportunity to find and compare DUI related information about the county in which they reside.

The PDD Committee launched the new website this past month in hopes of increasing the likelihood holiday partygoers that intend to drink plan their evening better than they might have otherwise.  To explain, the site suggests alternatives modes of transportation for partygoers—so that they avoid getting behind the wheel of a car.  The website also provides a sober party planning guide, downloadable BAC phone apps, and a list of tips on how to get home safely after an evening of festivities and celebrations.

Despite these efforts by the Colorado PDD Committee and its constituent state agencies, individuals still end up with DUI and DWAI charges, and while some of these individuals absolutely deserve the charges bestowed on them by law enforcement officials, many do not.  The unfortunate reality is that individuals sometimes end-up with DUI convictions or costly fines and other penalties that they could have avoided—had they shared their concerns with a Colorado DUI criminal defense attorney.  Should you suspect that a law enforcement official incorrectly charged you with a DUI—or even if you’ve received a DUI that you believe you did receive—you should contact a DUI criminal defense attorney immediately.  A simple conversation with an experienced and qualified professional can help you understand your options available and ensure you retain the rights afforded to you by law.

Alcohol Awareness Courses

Depending on the circumstances surrounding a DUI or DWAI charge, a court may sentence the convicted to mandatory alcohol awareness classes.  This type of sentence is often the case for plea bargains or deferred sentences for alcohol-related offenses.  Also, these mandatory classes usually serve as the condition for license reinstatement.  That said, however, some cases do exist wherein courts do not order those charged with DUIs or DWAIs to take alcohol awareness classes.  Depending on the type of circumstances, a court may require you to take alcohol awareness and treatment classes as offered by the Colorado Department of Behavioral Health.

Level I Education

Consists of 12 hours of DUI education over a minimum of a 2-day period.  With this education, not more than 6 hours can be conducted in one calendar day. This education typically occurs in a group or class.  Level I Education is not appropriate for someone who has had more than one impaired driving offense, or one offense with a high BAC.

Level II Education

Consists of 24 hours of DUI education over 12 weeks.  This education typically occurs in a group setting wherein theclass size is limited to not more than 12 regularly attending. Level II Education can be recommended by itself or may be followed by Level II Therapy.

Level II Therapy

Level II Education follows Level II Therapy.  This type of therapy can range in length from 5 to 10 months depending on the track assigned. Track assignment depends on whether a person has prior impaired driving offenses.  Also, the track assignment depends on the individuals BAC as well as other clinical indicators. The alcohol evaluator (probation) recommends this track changes, or—in the absence of an official evaluation—the treatment agency recommends them.

Level II Therapy Track Guidelines

Track A: 42 hours over 21 weeks – for first time offender with a BAC below .17;

Track B: 52 hours over 26 weeks – for first time offender with BAC of .17 or above;

Track C: 68 hours over 34 weeks – for offender with prior DUI, and a BAC below .17;

Track D: 86 hours over 43 weeks, usually for someone with a prior DWAI/DUI, and a BAC of .17 or above.

Alcohol awareness classes play a critical role in rehabilitating individuals charged with DUIs or DWAIs, and without such programs, law enforcement officers might see a greater number of instances of alcohol-related driving offenses.  Unfortunately, though, those charged with DUIs often end-up receiving sentences to take these mandatory courses, when the facts of their cases—had they been argued correctly—could have received them a much lighter sentence than the one they got.  If you’ve been charged with a DUI or DWAI, then you should contact a qualified Colorado DUI criminal defense attorney without delay.  By discussing the details of your particular DUI charge with a DUI criminal defense attorney, you potentially reduce the likelihood you receive a sentence you don’t deserve.