Colorado DUI Checkpoints And The Law

Drinking can be a prominent part of an active social life and law enforcement is fully aware of this; often getting proactive when it comes to regulating what they consider to be driving under the influence. Colorado DUI checkpoints are an active part of this.

When it comes to handling DUI checkpoints in Colorado there are certain ways law enforcement must handle the checkpoint and certain things they can't do. Let's get into some facts about DUI checkpoints in Colorado.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Colorado?

It is not illegal for law enforcement to use a DUI Checkpoint in the line of their work in Colorado. However, because they are legal, they must be performed according to the letter of the law. The Colorado Department of Transportation has published a set of guidelines that police must use. 

The CDOT’s Sobriety Checkpoint Manual takes the goals of setting up a checkpoint system and establishes a methodology behind it. Sobriety checkpoints are to be performed for the sake of deterring drunk driving, not for the sake of encouraging alternate routes to take while drunk driving. 

The Manual proposes methodology on the goals by deconstructing the aspects of a successful DUI Checkpoint so that it is to be applied across all checkpoints. This methodology is proactive and includes the following:

Ongoing Program to Deter Impaired Driving

Public information, education, and consideration for driving alternatives need to be included.

Judicial Support

The local court and prosecuting attorney should be notified before the checkpoint implementation, if for no other reason than to make certain that it is set up according to the law. Findings may be dismissible if this is not done.

Existing Departmental Policy

A law enforcement department must have an actual policy in place before executing a checkpoint. Failure to do so has led to accusations of “unfettered discretion,” as lacking policy gives too much authority to the decision of the officers on impulse.

Site Selection

While high-traffic areas may seem desirable, the sobriety checkpoint location must not create more of a traffic hazard than the behavior that is trying to be discouraged. The site should allow for a smooth flow of traffic, allowing officers to discreetly pull vehicles to the side and out of the general flow of traffic before conducting further field sobriety tests. 

Special Warning Devices

It must be clear that a DUI checkpoint is approaching. Most casual traffic may not be expecting a random stop on an otherwise free-flowing street, leading to accidents. Warning signs, flares or lights, and marked patrol cars with their warning lights on are all suggested by the manual.

Visible Police Authority

This is to establish the legitimacy of the DUI checkpoint. 

Chemical Testing Logistics

Since DUI checkpoints are to anticipate people driving under the influence, it is expected that law enforcement has a system in place to react to potential violations. This includes having the means to perform tests for blood-alcohol content or other drug use. Marijuana DUI being a factor with legalization in Colorado.

Contingency Planning

Any deviation from the initial plan must be documented and accounted for.

Detection and Investigation Techniques

It is highly encouraged that officers adhere to all DUI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) training. The standard DUI suspicion tests may be performed — such as smelling for alcohol or drugs, listening for impaired speech, etc., escalated to other tests must all be approved methods that would be enforceable in court.

Operational Briefings

As these are not a routine operation for the police, project briefings should be performed on all personnel involved in the DUI checkpoint.

Comprehensive Public Information and Education Programs

Because the goal is to discourage drunk driving, rather than just catch more drunk drivers, the DUI Checkpoint is to be “aggressively” publicized. Law enforcement departments are encouraged to use these as opportunities to piggyback other ideas, such as child seat belt laws. 

Data Collection and Evaluation

All findings must be recorded for the sake of consistency. Overall area results in DUI instances are compared to the historical instances, offset by the results of the checkpoint, and it is to be determined whether the checkpoint did, in fact, reduce what was projected for that night.

What to Expect at a DUI Checkpoint

Traffic will likely be slower due to the need for each car to stop, which can cause traffic to bottleneck. By law, checkpoints are to be clearly marked ahead, so they shouldn’t sneak up on you.

Sometimes, each and every car is stopped; sometimes, it’s one per a set number of vehicles (such as one in every ten). 

If you are the car that is stopped:

Prepare to Show ID and Papers

Just as with any traffic stop, officers will ask to see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance — which you are required to provide. For so long as there are no obvious signs of drinking or drug use, nor any reason to suspect as such, you should be waived forward. However, if anything in particular is cause for concern, you may be asked to pull aside for the DUI testing process.


Officers understand that drivers who are OK to drive may just be nervous. They try to weed out the mostly-sober with simple questions designed to trip up those who aren’t focused. As with all questions by a police officer, you reserve the right to remain silent until you speak with a DUI attorney.  

Field Sobriety Tests

If your words don’t convince law enforcement that all is fine, now come the physical tests. This is where you may be asked to step out of the car to walk in a straight line or perform other agility tests. Note — it is legal to refuse to perform these tests, but you can still be arrested for the suspicion of driving while intoxicated. This can be a double-edge sword — as it can make it tougher to prove your innocence but also tougher to prove your guilt.

Chemical Tests

Breath, blood, or urine tests may be requested. While they can initially be refused, if you are placed under arrest, they can be required. By this point, the police may have already decided whether to pursue the arrest on the grounds they feel someone will fail the test once arrested.

U-Turns at DUI Checkpoints

If you notice a DUI checkpoint ahead, you are allowed to turn around just as if you changed your mind on where you intended to drive. HOWEVER — be sure to follow all laws pertaining to correctly making the u-turn. Be aware that this may cause unwanted attention, and officers will likely be watching for people actively avoiding the checkpoint.

Unspoken Factors

Criminal defense is a serious matter. There are several things beyond your control that can impact your driving record. The determination of the police to set an example versus encouraging safer driving can affect how aggressive the police and prosecutors are when arresting and convicting. Even something as simple as your car’s age and condition could be a deciding factor in how “randomly” you get chosen to be stopped at a checkpoint than your driving is.

Be sure to speak with an experienced attorney to understand the particulars of your specific jurisdiction and situation. At the Law Office Of Jill Jackson, DUI defense and your rights are taken seriously. For that reason, if you find yourself in need of a Colorado DUI attorney, contact us today. 


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