What Constitutes Probable Cause for a DUI Stop in Colorado?

Categories: DUI Defense

What constitutes probable cause for a DUI stop in Colorado blog by Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C.

Facing a DUI charge in Colorado begins with understanding the crucial concept of probable cause. Under Colorado law, law enforcement officers must have probable cause to believe that an individual is driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both before initiating a traffic stop. This means that officers look for specific indicators such as erratic driving patterns, including swerving, speeding, or braking irregularly, as well as other signs like the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, or visible alcohol containers in the vehicle. These observations form the legal basis required to conduct a DUI stop, ensuring that the stop is justified and lawful.

If you are arrested for a DUI, it is imperative to seek legal representation immediately. A lawyer with experience in DUI cases understands the complexities of DUI laws and can provide the necessary defense against these serious charges. An attorney can scrutinize the circumstances of your arrest—from the validity of the probable cause for the stop to the adherence to legal protocols during your detention and questioning.  Hiring a lawyer is crucial for effectively navigating the legal system. It dramatically enhances your likelihood of securing a favorable outcome, such as a reduced sentence or dismissing the charges altogether. 

Colorado DUI Statistics and the Critical Role of Probable Cause

In 2023, Colorado saw a significant impact of impaired driving on road safety, with 218 lives lost due to such incidents. This marked a 23.8% decrease from the previous year, which recorded 286 deaths related to impaired driving. Despite this reduction, the overall number of DUI cases filed remained high, with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reporting 16,259 DUI cases in 2023 alone. Notably, the age group most frequently arrested for DUI was individuals aged 25 to 34, who accounted for 5,431 arrests.

These statistics highlight not just the risks associated with impaired driving but also underscore the importance of law enforcement’s role in establishing probable cause before making a DUI stop. Probable cause is a legal safeguard that ensures that the freedoms of drivers are respected while addressing the dangers of impaired driving. Given the high stakes involved in DUI charges, including severe penalties and the potential for life-altering consequences, it is crucial for anyone facing such charges to seek the guidance of a competent attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can challenge the probable cause of the stop if it was improperly conducted, argue for your rights effectively, and work towards achieving the best possible outcome in your case.

Understanding Probable Cause for a DUI Arrest in Colorado

Probable cause for a DUI arrest in Colorado is grounded in the principle that law enforcement must have a reasonable basis to believe a driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This legal standard ensures that officers have sufficient reason, based on clear facts and circumstances, to justify a DUI arrest. It’s a safeguard designed to protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures, as outlined in the United States and Colorado Constitutions.

What Counts As Probable Cause?

In the context of DUI enforcement, you may be wondering, what counts as probable cause? It can include a variety of observable signs and behaviors. Some common examples include:

  • Erratic driving. Swerving, abrupt stopping, speeding, or failing to obey traffic signals can alert an officer to potential impairment.
  • Physical appearance and behavior. Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol, or visible confusion can serve as indicators of intoxication.
  • Field sobriety tests. Poor performance on roadside tests may give officers reason to believe a driver is impaired.
  • Admissions of consumption. A driver’s admission of drinking alcohol or consuming drugs prior to driving can also establish probable cause.

Understanding these indicators is crucial for drivers, as they form the basis on which police actions are judged for legality. If an officer cannot cite specific, articulable facts leading to a belief of impairment, the arrest may be deemed unjustifiable.

Challenging a DUI Arrest

Situations where a person can challenge a DUI arrest typically revolve around the validity of the probable cause. If an arrest is made without proper probable cause, evidence gathered may be inadmissible in court, a principle known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Legal challenges can focus on:

  • Insufficiency of evidence–demonstrating that the officer’s observations were not sufficient to establish probable cause for impairment; 
  • Incorrect conduct of field sobriety tests–showing that tests were improperly administered or interpreted; and
  • Misinterpretation of symptoms–this argument suggests that symptoms attributed to impairment were actually due to other factors, such as medical conditions or fatigue.

For anyone arrested for a DUI in Colorado, it is essential to consult with a lawyer who can examine the details of the arrest. A skilled attorney can assess whether the probable cause was adequately established and can effectively argue for the dismissal of charges if your rights were compromised. 

The role of a DUI attorney is not just to defend against charges but to ensure that justice is served through the proper application of the law. Understanding what constitutes probable cause in a DUI arrest is pivotal for any driver in Colorado. If you are in such a situation, securing experienced legal counsel is your best defense. 

Have You Been Charged with a Colorado DUI?

If you were recently pulled over and arrested for DUI, it is important you understand what’s at stake and what you can do to avoid a conviction. At Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., our Colorado DUI defense attorney has more than 20 years of hands-on experience defending clients facing potentially life-changing DUI offenses. We take a strategic and comprehensive approach to every case we handle, ensuring we consider every possible defense before selecting the defense strategy that is best suited for your case and most likely succeed. To learn more, call Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. or connect with us through our secure online contact form.

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.