Obviously, any time you have priors the consequences are enhanced and the stakes are raised, so when you have multiple DUIs, you’re looking at mandatory jail. Even in circumstances where jail isn’t necessarily mandatory, in nearly every metro court here in Colorado, you need someone who can effectively analyze a case to see if conviction actually is likely and to mitigate the case based on the facts of the case itself, but also in your conduct subsequent to the arrest. That means focusing someone on getting proactive in treatment through AA classes and things of that nature, doing the kinds of things that the judge will look favorably upon, thereby making them more likely to be a bit more lenient when it comes to sentencing, since you have been proactive in addressing it.
In Colorado, generally the first DUI is seen as a mistake, while the second is seen as a problem. If you’re working on your second or third or whatever, the court will want to make sure that you see this as serious and they’ll want to know you’re being proactive in addressing it or they will get your attention by being more punitive, hoping that you will take it more seriously.
I make sure that all of my clients are well-educated with regard to the kinds of things that they need to do and that I, quite frankly, expect them to do to improve their circumstances so that if and when their sentencing hearing rolls around, we have done anything and everything we can to impress upon the judge the fact that this is an anomaly; that, although this may be a second or third go round, there won’t be another; that we have addressed it and have removed alcohol from your life and that we have reached the realization that alcohol can’t be a part of your life going forward under any circumstances; not just that you can’t drink and then drive.
For most people on second or third DUI, the court pretty much wants to know that alcohol won’t be part of your life any longer under any circumstances, since you’ve proven that you can’t make good decisions and that you’ve put the public at risk when you drink.
How Does Colorado’s Marijuana Policy Affect a DUI Case Involving Metabolites?
Because we have legal recreational marijuana, Colorado has instituted a five nanogram limit for active metabolites in one’s blood. They did that after several tries and it just passed this past legislative session. The reality is that most of us who know anything about marijuana’s effects on the human body and the duration that it stays in the system and what has to be actually shown in terms of active metabolites, that five nanogram limit means different things for the recreational user, meaning someone who doesn’t regularly use, or the chronic user who is under absolutely no actual effects of marijuana, but who can have well above five nanograms present in their bloodstream at any given time, even when they’re not under the immediate effects of marijuana.
Quite frankly, it’s bad science and it’s the public fear of marijuana that finally resulted in this push for a five nanogram limit in Colorado, but the fact that there is a limit is one of the reasons why an effective and experienced advocate is necessary in these kinds of cases; someone who knows something about the science, knows the experts that we can bring in to debunk that five nanogram myth and hold the prosecution to their actual burden of proving that someone was substantially incapable of driving a motor vehicle after ingesting marijuana, as opposed to simply noting that they had this certain amount of nanogram metabolite in their system at the time of driving, which really means nothing with regard to what the prosecution needs to prove, which is that the person was substantially incapable of safely operating a vehicle.
Marijuana cases can be difficult both for the prosecution and the defense, which is all the more reason to hire someone who knows what they’re doing to handle your case.
What Sort of Alternative Punishments Can Someone Avail For a First Time DUI Offense?
For most first timers, although jail is possible, it’s not likely, unless it’s a high BAC case or there are other aggravating circumstances. Of course, even in those cases with aggravators, there are things we can do to make sure that any punitive consequence like jail can be replaced with an alternative sentence like work release, in-home detention or even an elevated number of community service hours. It’s really only in those cases where there is mandatory jail that our hands are kind of tied, but for most first offenders, those circumstances don’t really exist.
We’re always looking to mitigate those circumstances and to look for those alternative sentences in lieu of jail because through the years, especially when we’re talking about first offenders, jail doesn’t do anything for anyone; it just warehouses someone for a period of time, costs taxpayers money and leaves lost jobs and shattered marriages in its wake. So, anytime we can convince the judge there is a more appropriate alternative to jail, we’ll definitely do that.
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