Drunk Driving in Colorado: DUI vs DWAI
Colorado DUI and DWAI arrests will result in two separate cases, a DMV action affecting your driving privileges with possible suspension, and a court case, where a variety of punishments are possible.
Distinction Between DUI / DWAI
In Colorado, you may be charged with DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination thereof), DWAI (driving while ability impaired) or both.
DWAI is a lesser offense, and you likely will be charged with this if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.05 per cent or higher. Evidence whether your ability is even slightly impaired will affect the outcome. Impaired means you have consumed intoxicants which affect you to a degree that you are substantially incapable, mentally or physically, of exercising clear judgment or adequate physical control to operate a motor vehicle.
If your blood alcohol is 0.08 per cent or greater, you may be charged with DUI, regardless of your driving pattern. It is based solely on body chemistry.
Colorado DUI Penalties
|Court Fines||Potential Jail Time||License Suspension*|
|1st Conviction||$300-1,000||5 Days to 1 Year||1 Year|
|2nd Conviction||$500-1,500||90 days - 1 year||1 Year|
Colorado penalties beyond a 2nd conviction are complicated, it is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney.
Chemical Testing and Implied Consent Laws
Under Colorado state law, any licensed person operating a motor vehicle automatically gives his or her consent to an approved test (blood, breath, or urine) for the purposes of showing intoxication. Any driver refusing to take an intoxication test (except for the Preliminary Breath Test) is subject to license revocation for up to one year.
Chemical tests must be administered within two hours of driving. Blood tests must be administered by a doctor, nurse, paramedic, or other person who routinely performs such tests as part of their normal job description.
Your DMV Hearing
You have only seven days from the date of arrest to request a hearing with the DMV, or face automatic suspension of your license. This suspension is non-negotiable. Your hearing must be scheduled for a date within 60 days of your arrest, and your driver's license must be in good standing if you are to have a chance of avoiding suspension.
Even if you’re not from Colorado you must attend your DMV Hearing to protect your driving privileges. Colorado is one of 45 states that share DUI and DWAI information.
DUI or DWAI convictions remain on record for your lifetime for criminal purposes, and five years for DMV purposes.
Colorado also has a Habitual Traffic Offender designation for those convicted of three major incidents (DUI or DWAI, reckless driving, driving under restraint, vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, or hit and run resulting in death or injury) within seven years.
The maximum penalty for a DUI in Colorado is one year in jail, a $1000 fine, 96 hours of useful public service, an alcohol evaluation, an alcohol education course, and up to 86 hours of alcohol therapy. A blood alcohol level of over 0.20 per cent gets you a minimum of 10 days jail. Second and third offenses incur more severe penalties and require jail time.
A typical first offender in Colorado will get minimum punishments of unsupervised probation for 1 or 2 years, 48 hours of useful public service, an alcohol evaluation, an alcohol education course, fines, and court costs amounting to approximately $500. You must also abstain from drinking for one year.
If you've been charged with a drunk driving offense, it is important to contact a DUI Attorney early on to minimize the damage.