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Cain v. People

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

June 16, 2014

Peter Gregory Cain, Petitioner:
v.
The People of the State of Colorado, Respondent:

Certiorari to the Adams County District Court. Adams County District Court Case No. 11CV1350.

SYLLABUS

In this case, the supreme court considers whether the results of a preliminary breath test (" PBT" ) for blood alcohol content are admissible for impeachment purposes. The supreme court holds that under section 42-4-1301, C.R.S. (2013), the PBT results may not be used as evidence in any court action except as specifically provided in the statute itself. Thus, PBT results may not be used as impeachment evidence because the statute does not allow for using the results for such a purpose.

For Petitioner: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender, Ari Krichiver, Deputy Public Defender, Brighton, Colorado.

For Respondent: Dave Young, District Attorney, Seventeenth Judicial District, Michael J. Milne, Senior Deputy District Attorney, Brighton, Colorado.

For The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Amicus Curiae: Nancy C. Johnson, Attorney-at-Law, Nancy C. Johnson, Lakewood, Colorado; Abraham V. Hutt, The Law Firm of Abraham Hutt, PC, Denver, Colorado.

OPINION

Page 250

BOATRIGHT, JUSTICE.

[¶1] In this appeal, we consider whether the results of a preliminary breath test (" PBT" )

Page 251

for blood alcohol content are admissible for impeachment purposes. While it is clear that when the defendant is charged with driving either while under the influence of alcohol (" DUI" ) or while ability impaired by alcohol (" DWAI" ), the results of the PBT may not be used as evidence of guilt at trial, § 42-4-1301(6)(i)(III), C.R.S. (2013), whether the results of the PBT may nevertheless be used for impeachment purposes is an issue of first impression for this Court.

[¶2] In this case, the county court determined that although evidence that a PBT registered a positive result for the presence of alcohol is inadmissible to prove intoxication, that evidence could nevertheless be admitted for impeachment purposes if the defendant testified that he had not been drinking. The district court affirmed this decision. We determine that the ruling is erroneous. While a police officer is authorized to conduct a PBT as part of the officer's investigation, we hold that based on the plain language of section 42-4-1301(6)(i)(III), the PBT results may not be used in any court action except as specifically provided in the statute itself. Thus, because the statute does not allow for using PBT results as impeachment evidence, we reverse the order of the district court and remand the case to that court with instructions to return the case to the county court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Facts and Procedural History

[¶3] Officer Morris stopped Petitioner, Peter Cain, for failing to use his turn signal and not fully stopping at a stop sign while driving his truck. When Officer Morris pulled Cain over, he detected an odor of alcohol and noticed that Cain's speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. Officer Morris also found an unopened case of beer in the bed of the truck. Cain told Officer Morris that he was coming from a liquor store and that he had not been ...


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