Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Governor Rejects Defense Bar Demand for Investigation Into Intoxylizer Certifications--Says Investigation Was Done; But Where's the Report?

Governor Hickenlooper has rejected the demand by the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar that an official independent investigation be conducted regarding the certification of the Intoxylizer-9000 machines that have been used to measure breath alcohol in DUI suspects since 2013.

The governor's legal office claims that an investigation was conducted and no wrongdoing was found.  Although that may be the case, no reports/findings, formal or informal, of that investigation have ever been made public.  The procurement, testing, certification and implementation of the I-9000 remains shrouded in mystery and secrecy...

Here is the latest report on the matter from today's Denver Post:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Intoxylizer-9000 Scandal Widens

A CDPHE whistle-blower has added yet another layer of scandal to the already beseiged Intoxylizer-9000 machine used to measure breath alcohol on DUI suspects. (See previous reports on this blog)

The former CDPHE employee Mike Barnhill has now reiterated for the media what he has already testified to in court--that certification of I-9000 machines was made by unqualified individuals using his qualifications and certification number, including false signatures.

CDPHE continues to maintain, publicly and in court, that these revelations are irrelevant to the accuracy and reliability of the I-9000.

Here's the Denver CBS4 report:

The Law Offices of Anthony J. Fabian, P.C. continues to remain abreast of these issues and how they affect the defense of DUI charges here in Colorado.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Questions Abound Regarding Certification of Intoxilizer-9000

As previously reported on this information page, there are serious unanswered questions regarding the validity of the certification process of the Intoxilizer-9000 (AKA I-9000) machine that has been used to measure breath alcohol content in DUI/DWAI cases in Colorado since 2013.  Legal issues surrounding those questions are now being litigated in Colorado courtrooms.  See, e.g.

Prior to 2013, when the I-9000 was put into service statewide, Colorado used an older machine, the Intoxilizer-5000.  This machine not only measured breath alcohol content (BrAC), but it also captured a second breath sample for independent testing if the defendant desired.  This machine was certified under the requirements set forth in Colorado statutes and CDPHE regulations.  Further, the full technical information contained in the operation manuals of the I-5000 were available to attorneys and the public and CDPHE personnel readily answered all questions pertaining to the I-5000.

But it was a completely different story with the I-9000, which did away with second-sample capture of breath tests.  From its adoption, the I-9000 has been shrouded in secrecy and mystery.  CDPHE has repeatedly refused to provide any technical data or information regarding the testing and certification of the I-9000 prior to its deployment for use in DUI cases.  Both CDPHE and the I-9000 manufacturer have also refused to provide any technical or operation manuals for review by independent scientific experts.  It has now been discovered that serious irregularities took place during the certification of I-9000s by CDPHE and that unqualified/uncertified personnel were involved in the certification of machines.  Further, documents offered by prosecutors in court to verify the certification of I-9000 machines have been carrying the signature/facsimile signature of a CDPHE supervisor who has not worked at the department for over 18 months.  None of these issues have been directly and satisfactorily addressed by CDPHE, the Attorney General, or the District Attorneys of this state.

To summarize, Colorado citizens are currently being tried and convicted with evidence from a scientific device of which no one of scientific credentials is able to ascertain what it is made of, how it works, and how it was evaluated by the State to verify that it was sound and accurate before being used as prima facie evidence of DUI.  Further, the State continues to keep the operational and technical information regarding the I-9000 a secret and has taken all possible measures to prevent the proper scientific and legal vetting of this machine.  Simply put, juries are being told that since the State says the I-9000 is reliable and accurate, we have to just take their word for it!

The Constitutions of the U.S. and Colorado guarantee that a person accused of a crime receive due process of law and be able to confront/challenge the evidence offered against them, and it is the most egregious of violations of these rights to prevent accused persons from being able to investigate, vett, test, and challenge scientific evidence that is offered against them.  That is exactly what is happening in Colorado courtrooms when persons stand accused of DUI/DWAI pursuant to a breath test result from an Intoxilizer-9000.

The Law Offices of Anthony J. Fabian, P.C. remains attuned to these issues and in close communication with other professionals who are intimately involved with the various statewide legal challenges to the improper and unconstitutional implementation and use of the I-9000 and its test results.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

COA: Statutory Two-Hour Limit on Chemical Testing Mandatory in Per Se Revocations

Today, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the statutory two-hour time limit to conduct a chemical test of drivers suspected of DUI/DWAI is mandatory and cannot be circumvented by excuse or good-faith actions/intentions.

Colorado's "Expressed Consent" law requires the revocation of a driver's license if he/she is contacted by law enforcement with probable cause that the driver is DUI/DWAI and a chemical test conducted within two hours of driving reveals a blood/breath alcohol content of .08 or greater.  In recent years, the Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicles Division has interpreted existing case law to permit revocation even when proven that the chemical test was conducted more than two hours after driving, or when it could not be definitively ascertained just how much time had elapsed between driving and conduct of the chemical test.

In Edwards v. Dept. of Revenue, a panel of the COA reversed the per se revocation of a driver who was stopped and suspected of DUI.  Because of Intoxylizer error messages for two abortive testing attempts, a measured breath sample of .229 was not achieved until two hours and five minutes after the driver was last known to be driving.  At the DMV hearing, the hearing officer concluded that, since the first attempts at testing were made before the statutory two-hour limit had expired, the test results obtained outside the two-hour test limits were nonetheless valid to be considered re revocation.  The driver appealed to the District Court, which upheld the revocation on different grounds; holding that the statutory time limit had been violated, but that given the high BrAC test result, the driver's BrAC was no doubt well-above the legal limit when testing began inside the two-hour time limit.

The COA disagreed and reversed the per se revocation, holding that the two-hour limit does include any exceptions or exclusions for special circumstances.  Since the test results that were used against the driver were obtained outside the two-hour limit, the results could not be used in a per se revocation proceeding against the driver.  The COA was careful to point out that this two-hour time limit applies only to civil, administrative revocation proceedings conducted by DMV; test results obtained outside of two hours may still be offered against a defendant in a criminal proceeding provided the test results meet all the other evidentiary requirements of scientific tests.

As one can see from this case along, DUI is a very complex body of law, and the assistance of an experienced attorney is no longer advisable, but essential.

Monday, June 27, 2016

SCOTUS: Reckless Misdemeanor DV Convictions Trigger Lautenberg Gun Ban

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence ("MCDV")provisions of the federal firearms laws, commonly referred to as the "Lautenberg Amendment", are in fact triggered when a person is convicted of a misdemeanor crime where the culpable mental state is "reckless".

In Voisine v. U.S., the Court held that, even when it is unclear as to whether the defendant was convicted of a MCDV where the culpable mental state was specific or general intent (knowingly) or reckless, the firearm prohibitions of 18 USC sec. 922 (g)(9) still applied.  In a previous case (U.S. v. Castleman), the Court has ruled that either specific or general intent crimes could trigger the Lautenberg Amendment, but did not address the culpable mental states of reckless or negligent.  The Court clarified that issue in Voisine, where it held that although recklessness is different that intentional or knowingly, it nonetheless required a voluntary act and conscious decision to proceed in the face of an unjustifiable risk, and was thus not accidental or inadvertent.

Firearms ownership is just one collateral risk that must be considered when resolving a criminal charge.  The assistance of a skilled, experienced attorney is essential in navigating the myriad of consequences of your decisions in these cases.

Colorado Supreme Court: Odor of Marijuana a Valid Factor in Warrantless Auto Search

The Colorado Supreme Court today ruled that, although personal consumption of small quantities of marijuana is legal in the state, the odor of marijuana, along with other suspicious factors viewed under the totality of circumstances, can be considered in determining whether probable cause exists to conduct a warrantless search of an automobile.

In People v. Zuniga, the Court approved a warrantless search by a Colorado State Trooper of an automobile from which an odor of burned marijuana was emanating.  The Court held that, although personal consumption of marijuana is legal in Colorado, there are other laws pertaining to the illegal possession of marijuana that may have been in play, and the odor, along with the nervous demeanor of the occupants, their diverging stories, and the alert of a drug-sniffing canine, was sufficient to constitute probable cause to search the vehicle in this case.

It is important to remember that a law enforcement agent cannot search an automobile with out a warrant unless he has probable cause that criminal activity has occurred or is occurring.  Absent probable cause or a warrant, an officer must obtain consent of the driver/owner in order to search the automobile.  Consent must be voluntary and not the product of coercion or trickery.  A person is NEVER required to give consent to search his person or property.

Ascertaining the constitutionality of an officer's conduct requires an experienced criminal attorney, so it is important to consult with capable counsel when confronted with a criminal charge.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

SCOTUS: No Warrant Needed for DUI Post-Arrest Breath Test; Warrant Still Required for Blood

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court further addressed the issue of mandatory chemical testing in DUI cases.  The Court had previously held that states could not force DUI blood tests without a warrant, and thus prosecuting persons for refusing blood testing absent a warrant violated the Fourth Amendment.  Colorado does not criminalize a refusal to consent to chemical testing, but in light of the SCOTUS rulings regarding warrantless DUI blood draws many Colorado courts have ruled that refusal to consent voluntarily to a blood test could not be used against a defendant at trial except for purposes of impeachment.  Refusal of chemical testing can still be used against a Colorado DUI suspect in administrative proceedings involving his driving privilege, as criminal Constitutional protections did not likewise apply.

Today, the Court issued its ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota, holding that intoxilizer breath tests do not rise to the same level of intrusion as blood tests and therefore do NOT require a warrant.  As neither blood nor breath samples are "testimonial" evidence, they are not protected by the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  However, the Fourth Amendment does protect individuals from "unreasonable searches and seizures" and therefore require a warrant or a valid legal exception therefrom.  In Birchfield, the Court held that that the intrusion of requiring a breath sample was extremely minimal and was not comparable to the actual physical intrusion of piercing the skin for a blood draw.  The Court did not carve out a new exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, but merely applied the long-standing "search incident to lawful arrest" established nearly a half-century ago in California v. Chimel. However, this ruling clearly expands the boundaries of Chimel and its progeny, as the search incident to lawful arrest exception was clearly approved to facilitate officer/community safety by ensuring an arrestee was not carrying weapons/contraband into detention facilities, NOT to discover additional evidence or evidence of new crimes as in the present case.

Criminal law and the law pertaining to DUI is complex and ever-changing, and the assistance of an experience lawyer is important in defending these types of cases.