DUI Driving Patterns
The evidence against you in a DUI case will likely include the police officer’s testimony about mistakes that you made while driving. This will most often be the reason the officer pulled you over to begin with. Common examples are swerving, speeding, speeding up and slowing down erratically, and so on. This type of evidence is very influential with the jury. It presents them with an emotional feeling of danger – and may persuade them that you were presenting a danger with your driving. The risk, of course, is that the jury will convict you as a way to deal with, or correct, that danger. Your DUI lawyer must address each of the officer’s observations individually. There may be other explanations, besides intoxication, for the mistakes you made on the road. Depending on the facts of the case, a skilled DUI trial attorney may reveal to the jury that the same mistakes could have been made by anyone, and that they are not conclusive that you were impaired by alcohol or drugs.
The police in Colorado are trained to look for clues that a driver may be under the influence. Generally, you will be ticketed for an infraction in addition to the DUI charge. The additional infraction is usually also what caused the police officer to pull you over. For example, if you are stopped for speeding and then cited for DUI, your charges in court will include both Speeding and DUI. The “catch-all” citation that police use when your “driving clue” does not fit into a specific category is “Careless Driving.” The Careless Driving statute essentially makes anything an infraction if it can be said that you did not show due care for the dimensions, or conditions, of the road. For example, if the officer claims that you came within one inch of a light pole when you where taking a turn - this is not specifically prohibited by a law. However, the officer can use the broad catch-all of Careless Driving as the basis for your stop. This is why many DUI cases are combined with a charge of Careless Driving.
The federal government has done extensive research to determine what driving clues the police should look for before making a DUI stop. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed a list of clues that are used by police here in Colorado. The top twenty clues are:
- Turning with a wide radius (wide turn)
- Straddling the center lane marker
- Appearing to be drunk
- Almost striking an object or vehicle
- Driving on other than a designated roadway
- Speed more than 10 MPH below the speed limit
- Stopping without a reason in a traffic lane
- Following another vehicle too closely
- Tires on the center line or lane line
- Braking erratically
- Driving into opposing or crossing traffic
- Signaling inconsistent with driving actions (left the blinker on)
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Stopping inappropriately (other than in traffic lane)
- Turning abruptly or illegally
- Accelerating or braking rapidly
- No headlights after dark
Notice that speeding is not considered a clue that you are driving under the influence. Your attorney will use this to rebut any claim by the prosecutor that speeding should be considered evidence of impairment. Drivers speed all the time, unrelated to drug or alcohol intoxication. In fact, without other driving mistakes, going fast by itself can demonstrate good driving reflexes and attention, even if it violates the speeding law.