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Are “Extraordinary Circumstances” Creating Extraordinary Risks for Colorado Motorists?

Under normal circumstances, drivers in Colorado are required to submit to either a breathalyzer, blood test, or “refusal” when law enforcement officers suspect a motorist is impaired. These tests help protect motorists from the hazards of a potentially drunk driver. However, COVID-19 has upended the norm, and many Colorado drivers are not properly tested for alcohol intoxication. As a result, many drunk drivers are effectively getting away with the crime by slipping through loopholes in the law.

COVID-19 and Breathalyzers

Breathalyzers determine whether a driver is within the legal limits to operate a motor vehicle safely. Fast, simple, and cost-effective, breathalyzers provide officers with real-time information about a driver’s level of intoxication. However, they require breathing at high speed into the tube of the device that the officer holds. This could potentially expose the officer to the COVID-19 virus.

For this reason, Denver Police, Arvada Police, Aurora Police, Jeffco County Sheriff, and Colorado Springs Police have determined that the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as “extraordinary circumstances” and as such have decided to forego breathalyzer testing.

But, What About Blood Tests?

Colorado law stipulates that drivers have the option to request a blood test instead of a breathalyzer. However, state statute does not allow law enforcement to compel motorists to take a blood test. As a result, motorists suspected of DUI can refuse the blood test, demand a breathalyzer, be denied the breathalyzer, and essentially have their case dismissed by the courts. It’s already happened numerous times, including cases involving motor vehicle accidents.

Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) Weighs In

CDPHE has stated that law enforcement officers should wear proper personal protective equipment to minimize exposure. The agency has also stated that there is no evidence that the administration of breathalyzer testing poses a significant risk to officers.

Fearful of litigation, that is all CDPHE representatives will say right now. Should agency representatives be called to testify by a local law firm pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death claim, law enforcement agencies who let a drunk driver off the hook could very well be held liable for the property damage, personal injuries, and wrongful deaths that occur.

Contact Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C. at (303) 447-1144 for more information about the services our local law firm offers. It is our pleasure to answer your questions and provide you the legal representation you deserve.

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