Free DUI testing system may not handle the caseload

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation began providing free blood tests to determine whether motorists are driving under the influence. The CBI, however, can not currently perform the expected number of tests. This may significantly impact law enforcement officials’ capability to process criminal cases, as reported by CBS Denver. 

Colorado officials voiced concern that DUI offenders may have their charges dropped as a result of a testing backlog. The CBI may need to conduct approximately 8,000 tests each year; the agency has neither the funds nor the staffing to process the anticipated high volume of DUI blood tests. 

The story behind the changes 

To reduce the budget of smaller local law enforcement agencies, changes made to the state’s DUI testing system eliminated the need for its former private vendor. The company charged $300 per case and conducted blood tests for nearly 70% of the state’s DUI cases. The CBI replaced the vendor’s lab service with its own free testing system. 

The former vendor stated that it cannot compete with the CBI’s free testing; the loss of business could cause the company to shut down. This would leave the Centennial State’s officials without an alternative option for conducting alcohol and drug impairment tests. To meet the demand for the anticipated number of tests in the vendor’s absence, lawmakers expect that the CBI’s free-testing system could cost taxpayers approximately $5 million. 

Right to contest a DUI charge 

After observing a motorist driving erratically, an officer may initiate a traffic stop. Law enforcement may then make a DUI arrest if the driver fails a non-chemical field-sobriety test. The arrested driver then submits to a blood test after he or she is in custody. An accused individual, however, has the legal right to contest a DUI charge and avoid a conviction. 

The Colorado District Attorneys’ Council has expressed concern that the changes to the system and the expected DUI testing backlog may hurt the state’s criminal justice system. A charged individual’s constitutional right to defend him or herself in court against a DUI conviction may be at risk.