In Colorado, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) legal limit is 0.08% for DUI and 0.05% for DWAI. The limit in underage drunk driving cases is 0.02%. Commercial drivers face a limit of 0.04%. Motorists who drive while at or above the BAC limit can be liable for DUI or DWAI even if there is no other evidence of actual impairment.
But that’s not the end of the story. BAC results in Colorado drunk driving cases can be wrong.
By contesting the accuracy of the BAC readings, it may be possible to win a dismissal for a Colorado charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.
What is the BAC limit for DUI in Colorado?
Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is automatically illegal. Even if the driver is being safe and does not feel any impairment, Colorado prosecutors can bring DUI per se charges against any motorist for having a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
Note that drivers can still face DUI charges even if their blood alcohol content is lower than 0.08%. The state would then have to prove that the driver was substantially incapable of operating a motor vehicle in a safe manner. The state would rely on such evidence as
- eyewitness testimony,
- video footage, and
- the results of the field sobriety tests (such as the walk-and-turn test).
- 5 days to 1 year jail;
- $600 to $1,000 in fines;
- 48 in 96 hours of public service;
- 12 DMV points;
- Possibly Level II Education alcohol classes;
- Up to 2 years probation; and
- 9-month license suspension (though it may be possible to get a restricted license if the defendant installs an ignition interlock device)
Note that defendants with a blood alcohol level of 0.15% or higher are designated a persistent drunk driver (PDD) and sentenced as repeat-DUI offenders. And if the BAC was 0.20% or higher, the minimum jail sentence is 10 days, not five.1
What is the BAC limit for DWAI in Colorado?
Driving with a BAC of 0.05% to less than 0.08% is DWAI – driving with ability impaired. People can be convicted of DWAI even if they feel sober and are being safe. Colorado prosecutors just need to prove that the defendant’s driving was affected by “the slightest degree” by alcohol and/or drugs.
A first-time DWAI is a misdemeanor in Colorado. The punishment is:
- 2 to 180 days in jail;
- $200 to $500 in fines;
- 24 to 48 hours of public service;
- 8 DMV points; and
- Up to 2 years probation
A first-offense DWAI carries no driver’s license revocation.2
What is the BAC limit for UDD in Colorado?
Driving while under 21 years old and with a BAC of 0.02% to less than 0.05% is UDD – underage drinking and driving. This is a very low threshold, and drinking just a small amount of alcohol could cause a person’s BAC to reach 0.02%.
The state does not have to prove a UDD defendant was impaired in any way. Merely crossing the BAC legal limit makes the defendant guilty of UDD. Also called a “baby DUI”, UDDs are part of Colorado’s “zero tolerance” policy for minor drunk driving.
A first-time UDD is a class A traffic infraction. The sentence is
- Up to $150 in fines;
- A driver’s license suspension of up to 3 months;
- Up to 24 hours of public service; and
- 4 DMV points.
Note that underage defendants arrested with a BAC of 0.08% and higher face regular DUI charges. And underage defendants arrested with a BAC of 0.05% to less than 0.08% face regular DWAI charges.3
What is the BAC limit for commercial drivers in Colorado?
Driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher is “Excess BAC CDL.” Even if the commercial driver does not get charged with DUI, the Colorado DMV will suspend the CDL for one year.
Note that if the commercial driver was transporting hazardous materials at the time, the revocation is extended to three years. And if the driver ever gets caught again for Excess BAC CDL – or picks up a DUI – then the CDL gets revoked permanently.
Commercial drivers who are under 21 years old are held to a higher standard: Driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.02% to less than 0.04% is “Excess BAC underage CLD.” A first offense carries a three-month CDL revocation. A second offense carries a six-month CLD revocation. And a subsequent offense carries a one-year CLD revocation.4
How do I challenge my BAC results?
Ten common ways to contest BAC results in an alcohol-related driving case are:
- The breathalyzer was not calibrated correctly;
- The technician who maintained the breathalyzer let his/her certification lapse;
- The police officer did not administer the chemical test within two hours of the defendant driving;
- The police failed to observe the defendant for 15 minutes before taking the chemical breath test;
- The blood test samples were contaminated;
- The blood tests were mixed up with another defendant’s blood tests;
- The defendant suffered from GERD, acid reflux, or auto-brewery syndrome – which may cause an elevated BAC;
- The defendant had dental work that caused any alcohol to pool and return an elevated BAC result;
- The defendant had just taken a medication or mouthwash that contained alcohol; and/or
- The high BAC result was due to rising blood alcohol.
Our Colorado criminal defense lawyers create attorney-client relationships in Denver, Colorado Springs, Greeley, and throughout the state. Contact us today to discuss how we can possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. Please contact our Las Vegas DUI attorneys for cases in Nevada.
Learn more about Colorado DUI laws.
- Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-1301; CRS 42-4-1307; CRS 42-2-125; CRS 42-2-125; CRS 42-2-126; CRS 42-2-127; see also Martinez v. People, (2020) CO 3, 455 P.3d; see also Edwards v. Colo. Dept. of Rev., (COA 2016) 406 P.3d 347. SB21-055.
- CRS 42-2-126; 49 CFR 383.51.