The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Edwards v. Colorado Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division on Thursday, September 22, 2016.
Robin Edwards was pulled over for speeding at 8:51 a.m. on September 7, 2014. The officer who pulled her over observed that Edwards had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, and requested that she perform roadside sobriety maneuvers. Her stumbling and lack of balance indicated she was intoxicated, so the officer informed Edwards of Colorado’s express consent law and asked if she would complete a blood or breath test. She agreed to a breath test and was transported to the local police department.
Due to problems during the testing sequence, Edwards’ breath tests were not completed until 10:52 a.m. and 10:56 a.m. The intoxilyzer report from the two samples showed Edwards’ BAC to be .229 grams of alcohol per two hundred ten liters of breath, well above the .08 limit for revocation. The Department initiated proceedings to revoke Edwards’ driver’s license.
The arresting officer testified at the revocation hearing that Edwards’ .229 BAC result was based on breath samples taken more than two hours after the initial traffic stop. Edwards argued that her driver’s license should not be revoked because she provided valid breath samples after the two-hour time period required by the revocation statute. The hearing officer found that Edwards’ breath samples were obtained outside the two-hour window, but ruled that the test administrator performed in “substantial accordance” with the statute, and, because the testing began at 10:50 a.m., it commenced within two hours of when Edwards stopped driving. The hearing officer revoked Edwards’ driver’s license based on excessive BAC. The district court affirmed the hearing officer on different grounds, finding that based on Edwards’ excessive BAC, it was more probable than not that she had driven with an excessive BAC.
Edwards appealed, contending the hearing officer erroneously interpreted the revocation statute, and because her breath samples were obtained outside the statutory two-hour window, her results could not be used at the revocation hearing. The Colorado Court of Appeals analyzed C.R.S. § 42-2-126(2)(b), finding that the statute mandated that breath or blood results must be obtained within two hours after driving. The court found ample legislative and case law support that the two-hour window is mandatory, and that test results obtained outside the window must not be considered. Because Edwards’ test results were obtained after the two-hour window expired, they could not be considered at the revocation hearing.
The court of appeals reversed the district court with instructions to set aside the order of revocation. The court of appeals also remarked that its findings would not affect the criminal proceedings against Edwards.