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.

Alcohol Testing: Knowing your PBTs and EBATs

While you may already be aware that law enforcement officials have an array of devices at their disposal for measuring the amount of alcohol in your blood stream, you may not be aware that—during DUI related incidents—officials use these various devices quite differently, at different times, and for different purposes.  Furthermore, while you may believe you don’t have a pressing need to understand the differences among these devices (to the extent that a DUI criminal defense attorney might), even having at least a cursory knowledge of these devices and their appropriate uses can help your cause in ways you didn’t even know.

To explain, if you’ve been pulled-over or if you’ve been stopped at a DUI checkpoint and an officer suspects you’ve driving under the influence, then he or she will more than likely administer a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) or Preliminary Breath Testing (PBT).   A PAS or a PBT are usually smaller, portable devices that provide law enforcement officials a relatively reliable indication as to whether or not an individual has been driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Despite their usefulness, however, these preliminary tests typically do not provide officers with enough evidence to make a DUI charge yield a conviction.  As such, after transporting suspected individuals to a nearby station, law enforcement officials then administer another more accurate test generally referred to as an Evidential Blood/Breath Alcohol Test (EBAT).  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment explains that Colorado law enforcement officials use EBAT devices to determine breath alcohol content.  These devices are usually much larger than the PAS or PBTs, and the measurements they take typically provide enough evidence to convict DUI suspects.  They work by measuring an individual’s breath-alcohol content, expressed in grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath, and an example of an EBAT device in Colorado is the Intoxilyzer 5000EN.

Based on the above description, you may be thinking that an EBAT is the “end all, be all,” so to speak, when it comes to blood/breath alcohol testing.  However, devices of all kinds can malfunction.  Furthermore, officers can sometimes fail to properly maintain these devices—resulting in errors—or they may even administer them correctly.  As such, if you’ve been charged with a DUI or DUI per se, you should go ahead and get in touch with Colorado DUI criminal defense attorney without delay.  A qualified professional has the resources and experience with regard to these devices to make sure you don’t receive a conviction you don’t deserve!

Holiday Parties and DUI’s

This weekend is expected to be a very busy one for office and holiday parties. If you are going to be at a function, Daniel, Thom & Katzman urges you to drink responsibly. An average person can easily become impaired after a couple of drinks at a party.

Should you be stopped by the police, remember that any field sobriety tests are completely voluntary. You are not required to submit to these tests. You may be asked to perform a chemical test of either your blood or breath. If you take a breath test, your results will be known immediately and if the result is .08 or higher, the police officer will take your driver’s license. The results of the blood test may take 2 weeks or longer to come back and the police officer will not take your driver’s license at the time of your arrest. You may get a letter from DMV revoking your license several weeks after your arrest. You also have the right to refuse the chemical test. If you refuse, you may lose your driver’s license for1 year on a first-time refusal and you will not be allowed any restricted privileges to drive to work or for any other reason. Before refusing the test, please remember that the consequences to your license may be much more serious than if you took a blood or breath test.

If your license is taken by the police officer, you have 7 days to request a DMV hearing to challenge the revocation of your driver’s license. The revocation goes into effect automatically unless you request the DMV hearing.

If you have the misfortune of being charged with a DUI, you need the help of an experienced DUI attorney. There are some very important deadlines that can result in the waiving of important rights unless you act right after your arrest. Please call us so we can discuss your rights and evaluate your case.

We at Daniel, Thom & Katzman wish you a safe and happy holiday

CSPD and other Government Agencies Turn Up the Heat

In an effort to curb the number of instances of DUI and DWAI instances, police departments and other governmental agencies have started pairing-up and combining their forces.  For instance, the Colorado Springs Police Department and the Colorado Department of Transportation often pair together during the CSPD’s Heat is On programs.  These programs typically run during holiday weekends (e.g., Fourth of July weekends) and involve both sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols.  Also, while the CSPD often pairs with the Department of Transportation, it has also paired with other governmental agencies such as the Pikes Peak Regional DUI Task Force and the National Highway Transportation Safety Association.

Characteristics of an Effective Sobriety Checkpoint Program

-Persistent Program that Deters Impaired Driving

-Program that Provides Legal Support

-One that Abides by Existing Departmental Policy

-Effective Site Selection

-Unique Warning Devices

-Visibility of Police Authority

– Logistics for Chemical Testing

-Contingency Plans

-Implementation of Techniques for Detection and Investigation

– Briefings of Operations

-Program that Provides Comprehensive Public Information and -Education Programs

-Means of Data Collection and Evaluation

As indicated by the City of Colorado Springs’ government website, the Colorado Springs Police Department institutes sobriety checkpoints and programs such as “Heat is On” for the purpose of deterring impaired drivers and reducing the number of alcohol-related vehicular fatalities each year.   Also, as indicated by the above list of characteristics of effective sobriety checkpoint programs, the CSPD and other agencies make every effort to ensure that these checkpoints adhere to both recent court rulings and the Colorado State Constitution.

Unfortunately, however, instances where in law enforcement officers do not adhere to guidelines and statutory regulations do exist.  Consequently, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done everything within your power to protect yourself legally, should you find yourself with a DUI or DWAI charge.   If you’ve been charged with a DUI or DWAI, then you’ll need to seek out a professional with both the experience and expertise to provide you with a fair defense.  A qualified Colorado DUI defense attorney has the resources to help ensure you’ve done all you can to avoid costly fines, community service, DUI classes, a revoked license, or even time in jail.