Out-of-state drivers arrested in Colorado for DUI, DWAI, or underage DUI generally face the same penalties as do Colorado residents. A conviction will likely result in license revocation, fines and fees, community service, online classes, and possible jail time. (Though incarceration is rare for a first-time misdemeanor offense.)1
Fighting DUI charges requires a significant time commitment, including having to take days off from work or school to attend court hearings. But many out-of-state drivers will never have to return to Colorado if they retain a local attorney to represent them.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. Will I have to return to Colorado for my DUI court date?
- 2. Do I need to hire a Colorado DUI attorney?
- 3. Will my driver’s license be suspended?
- 4. Can I do community service and DUI classes in my home state?
- 5. Will I get extradited if I ignore the court date?
- 6. What if I am on probation in my home state?
1. Will I have to return to Colorado for my DUI court date?
Usually not as long as the out-of-state defendant hires a Colorado criminal defense attorney to show up in court on his/her behalf. The only exception is if the case goes to trial, which is rare: The vast majority of driving under the influence cases resolve through negotiations with the prosecutor.
Note that DUI charges – even for misdemeanors – often drag on for several months. So it pays to have local counsel appearing for all the court appearances and communicating with the prosecutor. This way, out-of-state defendants can continue with their lives at home uninterrupted.
2. Do I need to hire a Colorado DUI attorney?
All non-residents are encouraged to hire a Colorado criminal defense attorney to represent them in DUI cases. A skilled attorney is familiar with the courts and prosecutors, and they know how best to investigate, negotiate, and litigate the case.
Non-residents who choose not to hire a local attorney are free to represent themselves. But then they would likely need to travel back to Colorado for each and every court date. And they would lack the legal experience necessary to fight for the best resolution possible.
3. Will my driver’s license be suspended?
It depends on the state that issued the defendant’s license. In general, other states’ DMVs are reciprocal and will issue the same license suspensions that the Colorado DMV does:
Driver’s license suspension by Colorado DMV*
|First offense||9 months|
|Second offense||1 year|
|Third or subsequent offense||2 years|
|* Note that a first-time refusal to take a chemical test following a DUI arrest carries a one-year license suspension.|
But some states impose harsher suspension periods than the Colorado DMV, and others impose laxer ones. And some states will wait to impose a suspension until if and when the defendant loses the Colorado criminal case – which is entirely separate from the DMV administrative case and has a higher burden of proof.
Either way, non-Colorado residents are encouraged to get a local attorney to fight to keep their license from getting suspended if possible. Note that non-residents who still drive in Colorado while their license is suspended risk being cited for driving under restraint (CRS 42-2-138).
The Interstate Compact
Colorado is one of 45 states in the Interstate Driver’s License Compact (IDLC). So when a non-resident picks up a DUI in Colorado, Colorado’s DMV places a hold on the defendant’s license in the National Driver Register (NDR) and is supposed to notify the defendant’s home state DMV about the case. Though this does not always happen. And as explained above, different states have different suspension rules for licensees who get out-of-state DUIs. (Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin are not part of this compact.)
Note that unlike Colorado residents, non-residents who pick up a DUI in Colorado may not apply for early reinstatement of their license or a probationary (“red”) license. This is because Colorado’s DMV lacks the jurisdiction to grant early reinstatement or restricted licenses in other states. In short, out-of-state drivers have it harder than in-state residents because they have to serve the full license suspension period.
Conditions for reinstating out-of-state drivers licenses
When out-of-state defendants lose their DMV administrative case, the Colorado DMV will put a hold on their license. And Colorado will not lift this hold until the defendant completes the suspension period, meets following requirements, and pays the applicable fees:
Requirements for license reinstatement*
|DUI first with a BAC of 0.08% to .149%|
|DUI first with BAC of 0.15% or higher|
|DUI first with chemical test refusal||
|* All these forms and fees must be mailed to the address on the Application for Reinstatement.
^ The defendant must meet with a state certified provider in his/her home state, get an independent evaluation, and then complete the recommended treatment. The provider must supply the Colorado DMV with an official letter containing the following information:
Out-of-state defendants should receive a Letter of Clearance from the Colorado DMV about three weeks after sending them the required documentation and fees. At that point, these defendants may apply for a driver’s license in their home state.3
4. Can I do community service and DUI classes in my home state?
Usually, yes. Common terms of Colorado DUI sentences include several hours of public service and possibly alcohol education classes.4 In practice, courts typically allow out-of-state defendants to complete community service in their home state and to take the classes online.
The defendant just needs to make sure ahead of time that the court will accept the particular community service program and online course. And the defendant will need to submit proof of compliance.
5. Will I get extradited if I ignore the court date?
It depends. People who miss their DUI court date will have a bench warrant issued for their arrest. For misdemeanor-level DUI cases, Colorado police will probably not make the effort to track down the defendant out-of-state. But for felony-level DUI cases, it is more likely that Colorado police will try to find and extradite the suspect back to Colorado.5
6. What if I am on probation in my home state?
Non-residents arrested for DUI in Colorado while they are on probation in their home state should contact a local criminal defense attorney immediately. Should prosecutors in the home state discover the DUI, the court may revoke probation and possibly remand the defendant to jail (depending on the terms of probation).
Are you an out-of-state driver arrested for drinking and driving in Colorado? Our Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with DUI and other criminal offenses. Contact us today by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.
Learn more about Colorado DUI laws.
Arrested in California? See our article on help for out-of-state drivers in California DUI cases.
Arrested in Nevada? See our article on help for out-of-state drivers in Nevada DUI cases.
- CRS 42-4-1301.
- CRS 21-1-101.
- CRS 42-2-126; see also Edwards v. Colo. Dept. of Rev. (2016) COA 137, 406 P.3d 347. Express Consent Cases Procedures, Nevada Department of Revenue; CRS 42-2-126. Note that following a Colorado DUI arrest with a breath test, defendants have seven days to request a DMV Hearing. If the defendant took a blood test, the defendant has seven days to request a hearing after receiving the blood test results in the mail. If no hearing is requested, the license suspension begins after the seventh day. Otherwise, the suspension is stayed pending the hearing results.
- CRS 42-4-1301; see also Felger v. Bd. of County Comm’rs (Colo. App. 1989). 776 P.2d 1169.
- CRS 16-19-104.