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Chemical Testing in Colorado

Colorado law states that all individuals that drive a motor vehicle upon the streets/highways of Colorado have consented to having their blood alcohol content [“BAC”] tested when directed by a law enforcement officer with probable suspicion of driving under the influence [“DUI”] or driving while ability impaired [“DWAI”]. If an individual does not cooperate in giving a sample (blood, breath, saliva, or urine), it will be considered refusal to submit to testing.

If the individual is over the age of 21, they may request either test be undertaken. However, if the individual is under the age of 21, they are limited to only requesting a blood test instead of a breathalyzer. Once the individual has made a preference failure to comply with that testing selection will be considered a refusal to submit. However, if a person is unable to take a breath test (i.e. injury, illness) the test shall be a blood test and no preference will be available. If an individual makes a preference, that preference may be disregarded. In the event of extraordinary circumstances that delay timely sample collection (i.e. weather related delays, malfunctioning equipment), the individual suspected of DUI/DWAI will be required to complete the non-preferred test. In addition, if an individual is dead or unconscious, a blood sample will be taken and collected. However, if a test cannot be conducted, samples not utilized by the health care provider will be utilized for BAC testing.

To determine BAC through breath analysis, a preliminary breath test [“PBT”] or an evidentiary breath test [“EBT”] must be conducted. A PBT is a handheld breathalyzer that is utilized as a method to determine probable cause, but the results are not admissible in trial. The EBT is conducted on a device called the Intoxilyzer 5000.  “Prior to testing, the DUI suspect must be observed for 20 minutes to ensure nothing is placed in the suspect’s mouth that would interfere with the test result. The DUI suspect will then be asked to provide two breath samples into the machine. The machine will test for the presence of alcohol on the suspect’s breath.”

To determine BAC through a blood test a tube of blood must be drawn . However, “only a physician, registered nurse, paramedic, emergency medical technician or a person whose normal duties include withdrawing blood samples under the supervision of a physician or registered nurse is permitted to withdraw blood for the purpose of determining it’s content of alcohol or drugs.” Once a sample has been taken, a vial will also be given to the individual suspected of violating the law for independent analysis.

To determine BAC through a urine test, the arresting officer must suspect that the individual is has consumed a controlled substance. For the results to be admissible, the appropriate standards must be followed.


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