Apr 092007
 
Authors: James Holt

Colorado policemen will have an easier time testing drivers for blood-alcohol levels if Gov. Bill Ritter signs a bill that recently passed the state House.

“I think we need to change the law,” said Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, who introduced Senate Bill 154 in early February. The bill passed the Senate March 6 and the House March 28.

A loophole in the alcohol-testing procedure requirements has resulted in some offenders not being properly prosecuted, said Morse, a former police chief.

Currently, police officers must administer the alcohol test of the driver’s request. If the chosen test is not readily available, the officer must take the driver to where the test can be administered.

Morse, the senate sponsor of Senate Bill 154, said the bill will allow officers to give whatever test is needed to ensure the law is properly enforced.

“We give them the option of taking a breathalyzer or blood test,” said Patrol Officer David Kaes of Fort Collins Police Services. “I’ve heard every possible explanation for why they justify whatever test they choose.”

Officers are also required to administer the test within two hours of stopping the driver, a time period stipulated by the Dept. of Revenue.

But cases arise in which lack of time or proper equipment hinders officers from administering alcohol tests according to procedure – which requires a 20-minute observation period, paper work, and time to acquire requested testing equipment.

“In Fort Collins, for the most part, we don’t have an issue,” said Kaes. “(But) I’ve heard of deputies or others in remote areas who have had a problem..There are some situations where the two-hour limit is not practical.”

The bill passed in the Senate and House unanimously.

“This is not a controversial bill,” Morse said. “It’s a legal loophole that needs to be closed so drunk drivers don’t go free.If Gov. Ritter signs it, it becomes law. I fully expect him to sign it.”

Officers in Fort Collins carry both portable breathalyzers and portable blood tests. According to Kaes, these portable tests are only preliminary tools to help the officer determine the driver’s impairment. If, after administering a preliminary test, the officer believes the driver to be impaired, an arrest is made and a certified test is given within two hours.

A driver who’s BAC – blood alcohol concentration – is 0.050 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or higher is considered impaired. A driver with a BAC of 0.080 or higher is considered substantially impaired.

According to Kaes, by driving, citizens give their express consent to take a test. If the driver is found to be inpaired, the penalty is a three-month driver’s license revocation. If, however, the driver refuses to take a test at all, the driver’s license is revoked for a full 12 months.

James Holt can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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