Getting arrested for DUI does not mean you will be convicted. Police misconduct, defective breathalyzers and crime lab mistakes may be enough to get your charges lessened or dismissed. Visit our page on Colorado DUI Laws to learn more.
DUI » Do they need a drug recognition expert for a DUI of drugs in Colorado?
Drug recognition experts (DREs) are not required to arrest people for the Colorado crime of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) under 42-4-1301(1)(a). However, it is typical for Colorado police to involve a DRE anytime they suspect someone of driving while high.
Drug recognition experts are police who are trained and certified to recognize when people are under the influence of drugs. In Colorado, there are currently 198 active DREs. Fifty-seven of them serve with the Colorado State Patrol.
DREs use a standardized 12-step protocol approved by NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) to evaluate DUID suspects. The purpose of this protocol is to try to ascertain which drugs the suspect may have ingested and how much. It is a more particular and detailed procedure than trying to determine whether someone ingested alcohol.
If a Colorado policeman who is not a DRE suspects that a driver may be under the influence of the drugs, the officer will try to get a DRE to appear as quickly as possible to assess the driver. If no DRE is available, the arresting officer may use his/her judgment about placing the suspect under arrest.
A DUID in Colorado occurs when:
Note that drugs include not just controlled substances but also prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and inhaled glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapors. Cases of driving under the influence of marijuana or opioids are particularly common in Colorado. Other drugs police routinely detect in DUID suspects include:
Also note that people suspected of DUID are usually required to submit to a blood test instead of a breath test. This is because breath tests do not detect drugs. The punishment for refusing to take a Colorado DUI blood test include:
DUID is typically a misdemeanor in Colorado as long as no one gets hurt. But drivers with three past DUI convictions will automatically be charged with a felony for a fourth DUI.
If a DRE was involved in arresting a DUID suspect, the criminal defense attorney would conduct a thorough investigation in search of instances where the DRE may have made a mistake.
For instance, perhaps the DRE’s certification lapsed. Or maybe the DRE administered the 12-step protocol incorrectly. Or if too much time elapsed between when the suspect was driving and when the DRE evaluated him/her, the DRE’s assessment may be invalid.
And if no DRE was involved in arresting the suspect, the defendant’s criminal defense attorney can always argue that the arresting officer lacked the knowledge and skill to identify a DUID suspect.
Michael Becker has over a quarter-century's worth of experience as an attorney and more than 100 trials under his belt. He is a sought-after legal commentator and is licensed to practice law in Colorado, Nevada, California, and Florida.
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