When it comes to drunk driving arrests, two different rules apply. Either of them could lead to an arrest, which leaves some people feeling confused about what rules they actually have to follow.
Police officers can stop anyone who displays signs of chemical impairment and can charge someone with drunk driving even if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit of 0.08% established under Colorado law.
On the other hand, police officers can and often arrest people for drunk driving because their BAC is over the legal limit, but they do not show signs of chemical impairment. Which of these two rules is actually more important under Colorado law?
State law authorizes police officers to arrest those who demonstrate obvious impairment at the wheel. Anyone who fails a chemical test will also get arrested. Simply put, neither law is more important than the other, and both can lead to similar charges and penalties. However, there may be a much more clear-cut way to prosecution when someone has a high BAC.
Although high alcohol levels don't necessarily affect someone's driving skill if they are a habitual drinker, state law makes exceeding the legal limit an offense even if it does not impact someone's driving. Chemical tests showing someone was over the legal limit can result in a very straight path toward conviction unless a driver knows how to fight back.
Those accused of drunk driving based on chemical tests but not on driving performance may be able to challenge the chemical path that led to their arrest. Those accused of impairment who did not fail a chemical test may have other defense options, like explaining why they swerved before the traffic stop. Understanding the drunk driving laws in Colorado will help you better plan to defend yourself against pending charges.