A conviction for a DUI or DWAI in Colorado could cost you over $10,000 and land you in jail for up to a year.
Our top Colorado DUI defense lawyers have decades of experience defending clients arrested for driving under the influence. If you have been charged with Colorado driving under the influence (DUI) or Colorado driving while ability impaired (DWAI), we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
And to help you better understand Colorado drunk driving laws, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss the following, below.
- 1. The difference between Colorado DUI and DWAI
- 2. First-time Colorado DUI / DWAI penalties
- 3. Penalties for subsequent convictions
- 4. Refusing a BAC chemical test
- 5. Under 21 drinking and driving
- 6. DUI / DWAI defenses
- 7. Call us for help
The terms "driving under the influence" (DUI)1 and "driving while ability impaired" (DWAI)2 are defined under 42-4-1301 (1), C.R.S. Both of these offenses can be committed by showing that your driving was actually impaired due to alcohol or drugs (even legal ones) in your bloodstream.
DUI may also be proved based solely on your blood alcohol concentration (“BAC). This is known as DUI "per se."
Your BAC—also known as blood alcohol content or blood alcohol level--is the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream as measured by a DUI blood test or DUI breath test. As the percentage of alcohol in your bloodstream increases, your BAC goes up.
You commit a DUI in Colorado when at the time you drive or within the two-hour period after you are pulled over:
- you are substantially incapable, mentally and/or physically, to safely operate a vehicle, or
- you have a BAC of .08% or higher (Colorado DUI “per se").3
Note that you can be convicted of DUI based on your actual driving even if your BAC is less than .08%. Conversely, if your BAC is at or above .08%, it is not a defense that you are able to safely drive.
You commit a Colorado DWAI when at the time you drive or within the two-hour period after you are pulled over:
- you are affected by alcohol and/or drugs in “the slightest degree—meaning that you are less able mentally and/or physically to safely operate a vehicle than you ordinarily would have been.
In Colorado, DUI and DWAI are generally misdemeanor offenses.
Consequences of a first-time Colorado DUI can include:
- Five days - one (1) year in jail,
- A fine of up to $1,000,
- A 9-month DMV revocation of your driving privilege,
- Up to 96 hours of community service, and
- Alcohol education classes.
First-time Colorado DWAI penalties can include:
- Up to 180 days in jail,
- A fine of up to $500,
- Up to 48 hours of community service, and
- 8 points on your Colorado DMV record.
Repeat DUI or DWAI offenders face heavier fines and longer driver's license suspensions. You may also be required to install an interlock ignition device on your vehicle after your driving privilege has been reinstated.
Additionally, if you are convicted of driving with a BAC of .15% or higher--even if it is your first offense--you will be considered a Colorado persistent drunk driver (“PDD") and sentenced as a repeat-DUI offender.5
As of 2015, if you have three prior DUI and/or DWAI convictions anywhere in the country, a subsequent or PDD conviction can be penalized as a Colorado Class 4 felony. Consequences of a Colorado felony DUI conviction can include:
- A fine of $2,000 to $500,000,
- Two to six years in Colorado state prison, and
- Three years mandatory parole.
By driving in Colorado, you give your "express consent" to a DUI chemical test to measure your BAC if you are arrested for DUI or DWAI.
If you are arrested for suspected drinking (and/or drug use) and driving and you refuse a Colorado DUI breath or blood test, or you fail to cooperate, you will face an automatic one-year suspension of your Colorado driver's license--although as of 2014, you can apply for reinstatement of your driving privilege after two months. If your license is restored early, however, you will be required to have a mandatory ignition interlock device for the greater of the amount of time remaining on your suspension or one year. Your refusal will also be admissible as evidence of guilt should your case go to trial.
The hidden costs of a Colorado DUI / DWAI
The Colorado Department of Transportation estimates that the total costs of a first-time DUI exceed $10,200.
In addition to fines, these costs include:
- lawyer fees,
- increased insurance rates,
- Colorado DMV license reinstatement fees,
- probation supervision fees,
- Colorado's state-mandated brain injury surcharge, and
- court costs.
You may also be required to install an ignition interlock device at your own expense.
If you are under age 21 and drive with a BAC equal to or greater than .05%, you face the same penalties as any other driver.
However, Colorado also has a “zero tolerance policy for drivers under age 21. This law makes it illegal to drive with a BAC of .02% or higher if you are not yet 21.6
A first time-violation of Colorado's underage drinking and driving (UDD) law is a Class A traffic infraction--a civil, not a criminal, violation.
Consequences can include:
- A fine of up to $150,
- A three-month suspension of your driver's license,
- 4 points added to your driving record,
- Up to 24 hours of useful public service,
- An alcohol evaluation or assessment (at your own expense), and
- An alcohol education or treatment program (at your own expense).
Second or subsequent violations are Colorado class 2 traffic misdemeanors. Potential penalties (in addition to those above) can increase to:
- Between 10 and 90 days in jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $300.
You face additional criminal penalties if you are under 21 and found with alcohol in your vehicle--a violation of Colorado's "minor in possession" law.
Innocent people are frequently arrested on suspicion of DUI or DWAI. While the legal defenses will vary depending on the facts of your case, common legal defenses to Colorado drunk driving charges often include (but are not limited to):
- there was no probable cause to pull you over,
- the officer failed to advise you properly of your rights,
- your DUI test was not conducted in accordance with proper procedures,
- there was no evidence your driving was negatively affected by drugs or alcohol, or
- there was another reason to explain your bad driving.
If you or a loved one has been accused of DUI or DWAI, we invite you to contact us at the Colorado Legal Defense Group for a free consultation with one of the best DUI lawyers in Colorado.
We represent people accused of DUI anywhere in Colorado. Communities we serve include: Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster and Centennial.
Our convenient Denver DUI office is located at:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
- 42-4-1301, C.R.S., (1) (a): A person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle under the influence of alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, commits driving under the influence... (f) "Driving under the influence" means driving a motor vehicle or vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, that affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.
- 42-4-1301, C.R.S., (1) (b): A person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle while impaired by alcohol or by one or more drugs, or by a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, commits driving while ability impaired... (g) Driving while ability impaired" means driving a motor vehicle or vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, that affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.
- 42-4-1301, C.R.S., (2) (a): A person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle when the person's BAC is 0.08 or more at the time of driving or within two hours after driving commits DUI per se...
- Under 42-4-1301, C.R.S. does not define DWAI per se. Subsection 6 (a) (II) provides, however, that if "the defendant's BAC was in excess of 0.05 but less than 0.08, such fact gives rise to the permissible inference that the defendant's ability to operate a motor vehicle or vehicle was impaired by the consumption of alcohol, and such fact may also be considered with other competent evidence in determining whether or not the defendant was under the influence of alcohol."
- 42-1-102, C.R.S., (68.5) (a) "Persistent drunk driver" means any person who: (I) Has been convicted of or had his or her driver's license revoked for two or more alcohol-related driving violations; (II) Continues to drive after a driver's license or driving privilege restraint has been imposed for one or more alcohol-related driving offenses; (III) Drives a motor vehicle while the amount of alcohol in such person's blood, as shown by analysis of the person's blood or breath, was 0.15 or more grams of alcohol per one hundred milliliters of blood or 0.15 or more grams of alcohol per two hundred ten liters of breath at the time of driving or within two hours after driving; or (IV) Refuses to take or complete, or to cooperate in the completing of, a test of his or her blood, breath, saliva, or urine as required by section 18-3-106 (4) or 18-3-205 (4), C.R.S., or section 42-4-1301.1 (2).
- 42-1-102, C.R.S., (2) (d) (I): It is a class A traffic infraction for any person under twenty-one years of age to drive a motor vehicle or vehicle when the person's BAC, as shown by analysis of the person's breath, is at least 0.02 but not more than 0.05 at the time of driving or within two hours after driving...