A third DUI or DWAI in Colorado is still treated as a traffic misdemeanor rather than a felony. But the penalties increase substantially with each successive offense.
If you’re convicted, you face:
- a minimum of 60 days and up to one year in jail,
- a two-year driver’s license revocation,
- 48 to 120 hours of community service, and
- $600 to $1,500 in fines.
Previous DUI convictions from any state and time period count as priors.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What are the penalties for a third DUI in Colorado?
- 2. Is a third DUI a felony offense in Colorado?
- 3. I got a DUI years ago, does that count as a prior DUI?
- 4. Does an out-of-state DUI count as a prior DUI?
- 5. What happens to my license after my 3rd DUI in Colorado?
- 6. Can I get an interlock device installed to get my license back early?
- 7. Why should I hire a lawyer after my 3rd DUI arrest in Colorado?
Violating Colorado DUI laws for the third time is usually a traffic misdemeanor offense.1 The penalties for a 3rd DUI conviction are harsher than the penalties for a 1st DUI or 2nd DUI, and include mandatory jail time, a longer license suspension, and higher fines and fees. The criminal penalties for a third-time DUI can include:
- A county jail sentence from 60 days to 1 year,
- A fine of up to $1,500,
- Revocation of your license for 2 years,
- Community service for up to 120 hours,
- Up to 4 years probation, and
- Alcohol education classes.
The first major difference between a second DUI offense and a third DUI offense is jail time. After a first-time DUI, jail time is often waived as part of a suspended sentence. A second DUI has mandatory jail time, but only for 10 days. With a 3rd DUI, the driver may be facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 60 days (almost 2 months) in jail.
Drivers arrested for drunk driving for the first time can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI).2 However, the penalties for a third DUI are the same if the driver was over the legal or impaired but under the legal limit.3 4
A driver can be charged with a DUI or DWAI if they are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. You can still be arrested for a DWAI even if you have a valid prescription if the drugs impair your ability to safely operate the vehicle. This also applies to recreational or medical marijuana use. Just because it is legal to use in Colorado does not mean you can drive while high.5
The police can test a driver’s blood to see if they had used marijuana in the recent past. Under Colorado law, there is a presumption that a driver is impaired if a chemical blood test shows 5 nanograms or more of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter.6
Persistent Drunk Driver (PDD)
After a third DUI, the driver will be classified as a “persistent drunk driver.”7 As a PDD, drivers have additional requirements to fulfill before they can have their license reinstated. This includes:
- Mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) installed in your vehicle for a minimum of 2 years;8
- Mandatory alcohol education and treatment;9 and
- Proof of financial responsibility (SR-22) from your insurance company for 3 years.10
Alcohol Education Classes and Treatment
Alcohol education classes and treatment are required to have your license reinstated. This is a combination of educational information and substance abuse treatment. Treatment for a 3rd DUI is required if the driver was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or simply refused a chemical test. The individual is required to pay for the cost of attending DUI school but can get financial assistance if necessary.
For a 3rd DUI, or chemical test refusal, the length of the education and treatment program depends on the driver’s blood-alcohol level.
|Prior DUIs and Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Level||Alcohol Education and Treatment Level and Track||Minimum Alcohol and Drug Education||Minimum Treatment|
|Prior DUI and BAC < 0.15||Level II Track C||24 hours / 12 weeks||68 hours / 34 weeks|
|Prior DUI and |
BAC ≥ 0.15
|Level II Track D||24 hours / 12 weeks||86 hours / 43 weeks|
|Prior DUI and |
Chemical Test Refusal
|Level II Track D||24 hours / 12 weeks||86 hours / 43 weeks|
If necessary, the program evaluator can require additional sessions to complete the alcohol education and treatment program.
A third-offense DUI in Colorado is generally not a felony, so long as it does not cause an accident with injuries. A simple third-time DUI (like a 1st or 2nd DUI) is still a traffic misdemeanor. However, a fourth DUI is treated as a felony offense. 11 12
A third DUI can be a felony if anyone was injured or died because of the impaired driver. This includes the following drunk driving offenses:
- Vehicular assault involving drugs or alcohol
- Vehicular homicide involving drugs or alcohol
Vehicular assault DUI under C.R.S. 18-3-205 is a Colorado class 4 felony. Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causing serious bodily injury to another person is vehicular assault DUI. The penalties for vehicular assault DUI can include from 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
Vehicular homicide DUI under C.R.S. 18-3-106 is a Colorado class 3 felony. Drunk or drugged driving that causes the death of another person is vehicular homicide DUI. The penalties for vehicular homicide DUI can include 4-12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.
See our article, Is a 3rd DUI a Felony in Colorado?
Any drunk driving conviction in the past will be counted as a prior DUI in Colorado. This is because Colorado does not have a limited “lookback period” like some states. Any prior DUI conviction in Colorado or any U.S. state or territory will be counted as a prior DUI.13
Other states have a limited lookback or “washout period” for counting prior DUIs. This means that if a DUI occurred before the washout period, it would not be counted as a prior DUI when counting multiple DUIs. In Colorado, there is no limited lookback period and any prior DUI from any date in the driver’s past can be considered a prior DUI.
|Colorado Lookback Period||Other State Lookback Periods|
|No limit. Any prior DUI is counted.||Arizona – 7-year limited lookback |
California – 10-year limited lookback
Nevada – 7-year limited lookback
If a driver has a prior DUI from many years ago, the judge may take that into consideration for sentencing. When judges have discretion in sentencing, they may consider a recent prior DUI differently than an old prior DUI.
Prior DUIs include any drunk driving conviction In Colorado, any state in the U.S., or any U.S. territory.14
Under Colorado law, prior convictions for multiple DUI offenses in Colorado include any:
Most states share criminal arrest and conviction records. If you had a conviction for drunk driving over a decade ago on the other side of the country, the prosecuting attorney will likely find out about it. Any prior DUI in any state from any time will generally be counted as a prior offense for multiple DUI charges in Colorado.
You will lose your license for 2 years after a 3rd DUI conviction.16 However, you will probably have your license revoked even before you ever get your day in court.
Under Colorado law, your license will be administratively revoked by the DMV after a drunk driving arrest. The only way to prevent this automatic loss of your license is to request an administrative hearing. You must formally request a DMV hearing within seven (7) days after your DUI arrest or your license will be automatically suspended.17
After the arrest, law enforcement will take away your driver’s license and give you a “temporary permit.” This permit is only valid for seven (7) days. If you don’t request a hearing in within 7 days, you will not be allowed to drive until you get your license reinstated.18
Chemical Test Refusal
Under Colorado’s Express Consent law, you will have your license revoked for refusing to submit a breath or blood chemical test after a DUI arrest. Even if you had no alcohol or drugs in your system and you are never convicted of a DUI, under Colorado law, drivers are required to consent to a chemical test if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe the driver is impaired.19
Some drivers refuse a chemical test because they think it is better if there is no evidence of their blood alcohol level. However, refusing a chemical test after a DUI arrest can be admissible as evidence of guilt at trial.20
The penalties for multiple chemical test refusal are generally higher than for multiple DUI convictions. The penalties for refusing a chemical test for the third (3rd) time include revoking your Colorado driver’s license for 3 years.21
Your license will be revoked for 2 years after a 3rd DUI case. Similar to a 2nd Colorado DUI, you can have your license reinstated early if you complete the reinstatement requirements and serve a minimum of one-month revocation.
In order to have your license reinstated before the end of the 2-year revocation period, you need to complete the reinstatement process. This includes:
- Completing the Application for Reinstatement (Form #DR 2870)
- Pay the reinstatement fee ($95.00) plus a $25.00 fee
- Provide an SR-22 from your car insurance company (to be maintained for 3 years)
- Complete or be enrolled in a Level II Alcohol or Drug Education and Treatment program
- Have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed in your vehicle for a minimum of two (2) years 22
You are required to have an IID installed in all vehicles you drive before you can have your license reinstated. An IID is like a breathalyzer for your car. The IID is linked to the vehicle ignition and requires the driver to blow a clean breath into the device to start the car. The IID also requires regular “rolling samples” while the vehicle is being driven.
The driver is required to pay for the installation of the IID and regular maintenance. Any breath samples that show alcohol on the breath will be logged by the device. Any attempts to bypass the machine or tamper with the device will also be recorded. Violations may require extending the IID requirement time or loss of your driving privileges.22
A 3rd DUI conviction can result in serious penalties that can cause major disruptions to your life. If you did not fight your 1st or 2nd DUI, you should seriously think about challenging a 3rd time DUI charge.
There are many legal defenses to Colorado DUI charges that your lawyer can use to win your case. Your attorney can also help you fight your license suspension with the DMV. You should contact an experienced Colorado DUI lawyer as soon as possible because you only have 7 days after an arrest to request a DMV hearing.
Criminal DUI Defenses
Your criminal defense lawyer will begin building your case by gathering all available evidence. This includes include:
- Witnesses to the events surrounding the arrest
- Photo, video, and audio evidence from police
- Evidence from the “crime scene”, including photos and video
- Police arrest records
- Police equipment records
- Patient medical records
- Vehicle records
Your criminal defense lawyer can then file motions to suppress improper evidence. Evidence can be thrown out of court because of:
- Improper evidence handling
- Improper chain of command
- Faulty chemical testing procedures
- Chemical breath or blood test result errors
- Medical issues
- Lack of probable cause
If you have been arrested for your third offense DUI in Colorado, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with multiple drunk driving arrests.
We create attorney-client relationships in Denver, Greeley, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and throughout the state of Colorado. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in one of our law offices.
Arrested in Nevada? See our article on DUI 3rd in Nevada.
Disclaimer: Past results do not guarantee future results.
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(a); see also People v. Valdez, (2014) COA 125, 411 P.3d 94.
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(b)
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(a)
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(b)
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(e)
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301(6)(a)(IV)
- C.R.S. 42-1-102(68.5)
- C.R.S. 42-2-126(4)(d)(II)(A)
- C.R.S. 42-2-132(2)(a)(II)(A)
- C.R.S. 42-7-406(1)
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1), see footnotes 3 and 4 above. Prior to March 1, 2022, non-felony DUIs were misdemeanors rather than traffic misdemeanors. SB21-271.
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(j); see also People v. Quezada-Caro, (2019) COA 155, — P.3d —.
- C.R.S. 42-2-126(3) – Revocation of license.
- C.R.S. 42-2-126(6)(b)(II)
- C.R.S. 42-2-126(5)(b)(II)
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301.1 Expressed consent for the taking of blood, breath, urine, or saliva sample – testing.
- C.R.S. 42-4-1301(6)(d)
- C.R.S. 42-2-126(3) (“(c) Refusal.
- C.R.S. 42-2-132.5(1.7). HB 21-1314.
- C.R.S. 42-2-132.5(7) – Licensing sanctions for violating the interlock restrictions.