Starting Jan 1 next week, several new laws go into effect for DUIs in Colorado. First, a driver will be able to challenge the basis for a police officer’s stop at a DMV hearing. I’ve written before about DMV hearings, but have yet to cover a terrible case – Francen v. Colo. Dept. of Revenue – from July 2012 for those accused of drunk driving.
In Francen, the Colorado Court of Appeals held that the legality of the police officer’s initial stop was irrelevant for determining whether a driver’s license should be suspended. As a result, a driver had little hope other than an officer skipping a DMV hearing in keeping their license.
The new law, C.R.S. 42-2-126(8)(h) & 42-2-228, overrules Francen and allows a driver to contest the validity of the initial stop. Among DUI lawyers, the law is called the “Francen Fix.” An example of the Francen Fix can be seen with a previous DUI case I worked on. My client still lost her license at the DMV hearing even though the criminal case was completely dismissed when I persuaded the Eagle County Judge that there was no “reasonable suspicion” for the Basalt Police officer to pull her over. The Francen Fix would have likely resulted in my client keeping her license.
The second change coming in 2014 is the “Interlock Bill.” Offered as House Bill 13-1240 and signed by Governor Hickenlooper at the end of May, the Interlock Bill gives some hope to those that refuse a chemical test when arrested for drunk driving. I’ve already covered Colorado’s Expressed Consent and authority for revoking a driver’s license.
As it stands today, a person that refuses a chemical test when arrested for their first DUI will lose their license for a year. There is no opportunity for a driver who refuses to get a probationary or restricted license. Draconian, I know. However, the new Interlock Bill offers some breathing room in 2014 because a first-time refusal will allow a driver to apply for reinstatement after two months of no driving. The early reinstatement comes with a catch: the driver will have to install and use an interlock device for 2 years following reinstatement. These drivers are designated by Colorado law as “persistent drunk drivers.”
The Interlock Bill, which amends C.R.S. 42-2-132.5, also provides that a separate suspension for a conviction of DUI will run concurrent to a suspension for a refusal. A refusal and DUI each may result in revocation of a driver’s license. Previously, those suspensions would run consecutive, or stacked on top of one another. A driver that refused and was also convicted of DUI faced the prospect of a 2-year suspension. In 2014 and beyond, that same driver will likely be facing a 1-year revocation with the option to reinstate early using an ignition interlock device.
Finally, the Interlock Bill lowers the bar for “persistent drunk drivers” who take a blood or breath test as part of a DUI. In 2013, a driver with a BAC over .170 is tagged as a persistent drunk driver and required to have an ignition interlock device to drive for 2 years. Starting next week, a driver with a BAC of .150 will face that same penalty.
We’re in the midst of the holiday season. In the hoopla of celebrating, people make mistakes. If you’re accused of drunk driving and looking for an Aspen DUI attorney or a Vail DUI attorney, make sure they are familiar with the new changes to Colorado law.