Can I refuse a breathalyzer in Colorado?

Many motorists may be surprised to the learn that, under Colorado law, any person that drives a motor vehicle within the state is already "deemed" to have given his or her expressed consent to chemical testing if ever arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) or driving while ability impaired by alcohol or drugs (DWAI).

Otherwise known as the state's Expressed Consent Law, this provision specifically dictates that when a police officer has probable cause to believe that a driver has been operating a vehicle in violation of Colorado's DUI or DWAI laws, the driver shall be required to cooperate and complete chemical testing. The obvious purpose of this testing is to determine the level of alcohol or drugs in the driver's system.

If the alleged offense is related solely to drunk driving, the driver's blood-alcohol-content (BAC) will generally be ascertained through a blood analysis or breath test - such as with a breathalyzer. Interestingly, if the driver is 21-years-old or older, he or she may request either a blood or breath test. However, in circumstances involving allegations of drug use while driving, urine or saliva tests may also be used in addition to blood analysis.

Importantly, while a police officer typically cannot force a driver to submit to chemical testing, refusal to cooperate in such testing may result in severe penalties for the driver given Colorado's Expressed Consent Law.

Penalties in Colorado for refusing chemical testing

If a driver wrongfully refuses to submit to testing following a drunk driving arrest, he or she will likely face a license revocation period of:

  • 12 months for a first offense
  • 24 months for a second offense
  • 36 months for a third offense

Depending on the circumstances, an individual with two or more refusal violations may be able to seek a restricted license after a certain amount of time, although there are several requirements associated with such an arrangement.

It is also important for Colorado motorists to keep in mind that they can still be charged with DUI even if they refuse chemical testing. Indeed, their refusal to submit to BAC testing can be admitted as evidence against them in any subsequent DUI trial.

As this article demonstrates, the law in Colorado regarding chemical testing can be quite complicated. Accordingly, if you find yourself facing a DUI, DWAI or refusal charge, it is often best to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A skilled attorney can explain your options and help ensure your rights are protected.