Colorado DUI: DMV license suspensions
If you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Colorado, you face both criminal charges in court and administrative penalties from the Colorado DMV. Only a court can impose criminal penalties, such as jail time. But as the best Colorado DUI attorneys know, your license can be revoked by the court and/or the DMV independently.
The most serious Colorado DMV penalty for DUI is suspension of your Colorado driver's license. Unless you request a hearing within 7 days of your arrest and prevail at the hearing, your license will be automatically suspended--usually for at least one year. Qualified drivers may, however, be eligible for early reinstatement of their driving privilege after their license has been suspended for as little as one or two months.
To help you better understand the Colorado DMV's administrative penalties for DUI, our Colorado DUI defense lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. How long do I have to contest a Colorado DMV suspension?
- 2. How long will I lose my Colorado license for?
- 3. Do I face a double suspension if I am convicted?
- 4. Will I lose my license for Colorado DWAI?
- 5. Will I lose my license for Colorado UDD?
- 6. What if I refused a chemical test?
- 7. What if I was driving a commercial vehicle?
- 8. Can I get my Colorado driver's license reinstated early?
- 9. What if I win my Colorado DUI criminal case?
- 10. Call us for help…
Following a DUI arrest, the officer will usually suspend your license and issue you a temporary seven-day license. In order to keep your driving privilege, you must, within seven days, request a license suspension hearing from the Colorado DMV. If you do not request the hearing within seven days, your license will automatically be suspended.
If the Colorado DMV finds you drove under the influence, consequences can include a minimum driver's license suspension or revocation of:
- Nine months for a first violation,
- One year for a second violation, or
- Two years for a third or subsequent violation.1
You will also receive 12 points on your Colorado DMV driving record.
The Colorado DMV has no “lookback” period for prior DUI / DWAI violations. This means it doesn't matter how long ago the prior violations occurred. They stay on your driving record.
The Colorado DMV license hearing is an administrative hearing to determine your license eligibility only. If you are also convicted on criminal charges arising out of the same DUI, DUI per se, DWAI, or UDD, you face both the DMV revocation and any suspension imposed by the criminal court.
However, if both the court and the DMV suspend or revoke your license, the periods will run concurrently (that is, at the same time). Thus the total period of revocation / suspension will not exceed the longer of the two periods.2
Driving while ability impaired (DWAI) in Colorado is a less serious charge than Colorado DUI.
Unless DWAI puts you over the point limit on your Colorado DMV driving record, your license will not be suspended or revoked for a first misdemeanor DWAI.
A Colorado DWAI does, however, add 8 points to your DMV record. If you accumulate enough points within a certain time period, the DMV will suspend your license. For most drivers 21 and over, this will occur if you accumulate 12 or more points in any 12-month period, or 18 points or more in a period of 24 months.3
You violate Colorado's underage drinking and driving (UDD) law when:
- You are under age 21, and
- You drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02% or higher (but less than .05%).
This is also known as Colorado's “zero tolerance” law for underage drivers.
If the DMV finds you guilty of Colorado UDD, consequences include a minimum driver's license suspension of:
- Three months for a first violation,
- Six months for a second violation, and
- One year for a third or subsequent violation.
Additionally, you will receive four points on your Colorado driving record.
The Colorado DMV will automatically suspend your license if you refuse a chemical test after an arrest for DUI, DUI per se, DWAI or UDD.
Chemical test refusal triggers an automatic minimum license suspension of:
- one year for a first violation,
- two years for a second violation, and
- three years for a third or subsequent violation.
However, as of 2014, you can request early reinstatement of your driving privilege after your license has been suspended for at least two months (see below).
Stricter laws apply to people driving commercial vehicles in Colorado. For more information, please see our article on Colorado Excess BAC CDL.
You can apply for reinstatement of your license after it has been suspended for at least one or two months (depending on the charge). However, you will often be required to complete an alcohol education course and to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, both at your own expense.
You can apply for early reinstatement after one month if you are at least 21 and your license was suspended for one year or more due to:
- DUI per se, or
However, your license will be interlock-restricted for the greater of:
- one year, or
- the time that was remaining on your suspension.4
You may also apply for reinstatement after one month if you were under 21 and your license was suspended for nine months. If reinstatement is granted, you will be required to drive on an ignition interlock restricted license for at least 8 months.
However, if you were less than twenty-one years at the time of an offense necessitating a one-year revocation or more, you may not apply for early reinstatement until your license has been revoked for one year.
If your Colorado privilege to drive was revoked for one year or more because of a refusal to take a DUI chemical test, you may apply for an early reinstatement with an interlock-restricted license after two months (or one year if you were under 21).
The ignition interlock restriction must remain in effect for the longer of:
- one year, or
- the total time period remaining on the license restraint.
Exceptions: If you were a first-time offender whose license was suspended for 9 months, you may apply for early reinstatement with an interlock-restricted license after one month (with the restriction to last at least 8 months). And if you have been designated a Colorado persistent drunk driver, the ignition interlock device must remain in place for a minimum of two years.5
For more information on interlock-restricted licenses, please see our article on Colorado ignition interlock devices.
The Colorado DMV can revoke your license for DUI even if you are ultimately not charged with Colorado DUI as a crime. It is imperative, therefore, that you contact the DMV within seven days of a drunk driving or DUI arrest in order to keep your license.
Remember... you have just seven days from a DUI arrest to contest your Colorado DMV license suspension. The best Colorado DUI defense lawyers know, however, that there are ways to contest your Colorado license suspension.
If you've been arrested for DUI in Colorado, call our expert criminal defense lawyers right away. We represent clients accused of Colorado drinking and driving throughout the state, including in Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster, and Centennial.
For the fastest response, use the convenient contact form on this page. Or contact us at our home office, conveniently located at:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
- See 42-2-126 and 42–2–132, C.R.S.
- 42-2-126(4) (a) (II), C.R.S.
- See 42-2-127, C.R.S.
- See 42-2-132.5, C.R.S.
- 42-2-126(3), C.R.S.