Monday, May 20, 2013

General Assembly Returns Fourth Amendment Protection to DUI Stops

Governor Hickenlooper has signed into law HB13-1077, discussed below, which restores the 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable searches/seizures in DUI Express Consent driver's license revocation cases.  Last year, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that officers did not have to have reasonable suspicion to stop automobiles in cases involving DUI Express Consent license revocations.  The law is now clear that, in addition to other legal grounds, drivers accused of either driving with excessive alcohol content (.08 or greater) or refusing testing can challenge at a DMV hearing the Constitutional basis for the stopping an contacting of the driver by law enforcement.

This law establishes just one reason why experienced legal counsel is important in exploring all of your options in dealing with a DUI charge.

Colo. Supreme Court Rules Silence Not the Same as Objection to House Search

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that an express objection must be made in order for one joint occupant of a home to cancel the consent of the other to search the home.  In People v. Fuerst, announced today, the Court held that a husband's silence behind a locked door did not invalidate the consent to search the home given to the police by his wife.  To review, absent a valid search warrant, police may only search a residence if exigent/emergency circumstances require entry or if they receive consent from the residents.  In 2006, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Georgia v. Randolph that if both spouses were present at the time of the request for consent to search their home, the consent had to be unanimous, i.e. if either spouse objected to the search then the consent of the other was not valid.  Since Randolph, Colorado courts have ruled that in order for the objection to be valid it must be made in person, on-scene and at the time of the search.  Now, in Fuerst, the Colorado courts have further clarified that the objection must be clearly expressed; the mere absence of an express objection does not itself constitute an objection to search.  In Fuerst, police responded to a report of protection order violation.  They were met by Fuerst's wife, who consented to admit the police to conduct a search of the premises.  Police found a locked door, behind which was Fuerst, and when he did not respond to their requests, the police unlocked the door and entered, finding Fuerst, a convicted felon, in possession of firearms, which was also a violation of a protection order which he was under.

Under the Constitution, a person's home enjoys highly-protected status from government intrusion.  However, pusuant to the above ruling, any consent that is not immediately withdrawn or objected to will likely be considered valid by the courts.  When confronted with criminal charges, it is important to know your rights and whether or not they have been violated by law enforcement, and only an experienced attorney can provide the assistance needed to understand and defend those rights.