When Andrew Romero woke up on a beautiful spring morning, little did he know that his night was headed toward a ride in the back of a police van. Andrew lives in Pueblo, but was working in Denver. He was up bright and early to make it to work on time. After a full 12 hour shift, he headed back to Castle Rock to his aunt’s house where he met his cousin. His cousin wanted to go to a show in downtown Denver and Andrew agreed to be the designated driver. So far we have a tired but sober Andrew. What could go wrong, right?
Turns out, plenty could go wrong. First, Andrew had one drink at the show. Most people know and understand that it is not illegal to drink and drive, but rather it is illegal to drive while drunk or impaired. However, one drink will still cause an odor of an alcoholic beverage. This odor is one of the first things the police look for when running a sobriety checkpoint. Did we mention that Andrew was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint on the way home?
The DUI Checkpoint
At the checkpoint, the contacting officer noticed that Andrew’s eyes were red and droopy. Although this can happen after drinking, it can also happen after being up for over 20 hours straight. This distinction was lost on the officer. Andrew also had that pesky odor of alcohol. Unfortunately the odor didn’t tell the officer that it came from one drink instead of 3. Andrew was asked out of the car to do roadside sobriety tests.
Roadside Sobriety Tests
Roadside sobriety tests are like a rigged carnival game. They were designed to test balance when people were intentionally put in unstable positions. They were developed in a controlled environment, and when administered in exactly the same way every time, in this controlled environment, they were reasonably accurate at predicting alcohol impairment. Too bad the side of a cold, windy road at 2 a.m. with a police officer shining a mag-light in your face is not a controlled environment. Too bad officers seldom if ever explain and administer them in the prescribed standardized way. Too bad, despite the fact that Andrew did really well on these tests, the officer decided that he did not do well enough. On to the breath test for Andrew!
The Breath Test Machine
Now breath tests are performed by a breath testing machine, which is prone to error just like any other machine. Add into the mix a power outage, officers who were not paying attention to Andrew, a cold night that had already taken one machine out of service, and you have a recipe for an inaccurate test result. That is true if you ask anyone except a police officer who is a breath test operator. If you ask him or her, the machine is not a machine, but rather a precision instrument that is foolproof and cannot return an inaccurate result. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
On To Trial
Andrew did the brave thing. He did the thing that many people are frightened to do, even though they are innocent. He agreed to plead not guilty and went to trial. Despite the fact that the case was stacked against him. He had a blood alcohol result over the legal limit. He had 2 officers testifying against him. He had a tough case.
At trial we got the officer who administered the roadside tests to admit he did not follow protocol. We showed that the officer who tested Andrew was distracted and was not paying attention to Andrew. We showed that the test results were not accurate. We proved to the jury that Andrew was being responsible and driving perfectly that night. We got a Not Guilty verdict. We made it possible for Andrew to go on with his life without worrying about losing his job, losing his reputation, losing his license, and losing a lot of money. Congratulations to Andrew. Congratulations to us. Congratulations to another happy client.
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