If you’re an out-of-state driver who picks up a DUI, DWAI or underage DUI in Colorado, you will generally face the same criminal penalties and driver’s license suspensions as Colorado residents do. Plus you need to come back to Colorado for all your court dates unless you hire local counsel to appear on your behalf.
Here are four key things to know:
- A first-time DUI carries a 9-month license revocation, fines and fees, community service, DUI School, and rarely jail time.1
- Colorado courts will usually allow you to complete your community service requirements in your home state.
- Before you can get your driver’s license reinstated in your home state, the Colorado DMV needs to give you a letter of clearance.
- If you ignore your DUI case in Colorado, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. Will I have to return to Colorado for my DUI court date?
- 2. Should I hire a Colorado DUI attorney?
- 3. Will my driver’s license be suspended in my home state?
- 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 when I get a DUI in Colorado?
- Additional reading
1. Will I have to return to Colorado for my DUI court date?
Usually not, as long as you hire a Colorado criminal defense attorney to appear for you. 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, you can continue with your life at home uninterrupted.
Note that courts will assign you a public defender if you lack financial resources to hire private counsel, though then you will have to appear in person for all court appearances.2 Plus what you end up paying in travel and missed work may be comparable to what you would pay an attorney.
2. Should I hire a Colorado DUI attorney?
Yes. Firstly, we would make sure that your bail conditions permit you to lawfully leave Colorado and go home while the case is pending. The default rule in Colorado is that you cannot leave the state while your criminal case is open.
- seven days after you fail the breath test or refuse to get tested at all; or
- seven days after you receive the results of your blood test in the mail.
If no hearing is requested by the seven-day deadline, the license suspension begins immediately. Otherwise, the suspension is stayed pending the hearing results.
Finally, we would use our decades of combined experience to fight for a charge reduction and dismissal of your DUI case in criminal court (which is totally separate from the DMV case). Sometimes our investigation turns up evidence of police misconduct that will force the D.A. to drop the case.
3. Will my driver’s license be suspended in my home state?
A Colorado DUI probably will result in your home state license being suspended.
Colorado is one of the 45 states which abide by the Interstate Driver’s License Compact (IDLC) and honor each other’s license suspension laws. (The five states that do not participate in the IDLC are Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.)
So if you pick up a DUI while visiting Colorado, Colorado’s DMV will:
- place a hold on your license in the National Driver Register (NDR) and
- notify your home state DMV about the case.
If your home state follows the IDLC, it 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 offense 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.|
Note that some states impose harsher suspension periods than the Colorado DMV, and others impose laxer ones. Also, some states will wait to impose a suspension until and when you lose the Colorado criminal case – which is entirely separate from the DMV administrative case and has a higher burden of proof.
3.1. How do I get my driver’s license reinstated?
If you live out-of-state and lose your Colorado DMV hearing (or you forget to request one in the first place), the Colorado DMV will put a hold on your license. Colorado will not lift this hold until you complete the suspension period, meet the following requirements, and pay the $95 reinstatement fee:
Requirements for license reinstatement*
|DUI first with a BAC of 0.08% to .149%|
|DUI first with BAC of 0.15% or higher; or DUI first with chemical test refusal|
|* All these forms and fees must be mailed to the address on the Application for Reinstatement. |
^ You must meet with a state certified provider in your 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:
You should receive a Letter of Clearance from the Colorado DMV about three weeks after sending them the required documentation and fees. At that point, you may apply to reinstate your driver’s license in your home state.
3.2. Can I get my license reinstated early?
Unlike Colorado residents, you as a non-resident may not apply for an early reinstatement of your license or for a probationary (“red”) license. This is because Colorado’s DMV lacks the jurisdiction to grant early reinstatement or restricted licenses in your home state.
In short, DUI cases are harder on you than on Colorado residents because you have to serve the full license suspension period.
3.3. If I move states, can I apply for a new license there?
As long as your Colorado DMV case is open and you have not completed the above requirements, it is unlikely you will be granted a new license anywhere.
Whenever you apply for a driver’s license in your home state, your state’s DMV must search your name on the Nevada Driver Register (NDR). The NDR has a database called the Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS), which lists all the motorists who have been convicted of drunk/drugged driving or who have suspended or revoked licenses. (It has such information as your name, DL number, gender, birth date, and which state is reporting your driving violation.)
During this search, your state – the “State of Inquiry” (SOI) – will be pointed to the “State of Record” (SOR), which has information about your driving history and status. If the SOR shows an open Colorado DMV case, the SOI will deny your license.3
4. Can I fulfill my probation requirements in my home state?
Usually, yes. Colorado belongs to the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS), which permits your probation to be transferred to your home state (“the receiving state”).
Under ICAOS guidelines, your home state must accept the transfer of your DUI probation if:
- You are a resident of the receiving state;
- It is your second or subsequent DUI or DWAI conviction;
- There is no remaining jail sentence you still have to serve;
- Your probation term exceeds 90 days;
- You have been fully compliant so far in Colorado; and
- Your home state has a “plan of supervision.”
If you do not meet all of these conditions, then your home state has the discretion to accept or deny the transfer of probation.
For first-time DUI cases, Colorado judges usually will allow you to complete your community service requirements in your home state. Just check ahead of time with the Colorado court. Plus you will need to submit proof of compliance.4
5. Will I get extradited if I ignore the court date?
If you miss your DUI court date in Colorado, the court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
For misdemeanor-level DUI cases, Colorado police will probably not make the effort to track you down out-of-state. For felony-level DUI cases, however, it is more likely that Colorado police will try to find you wherever you are and extradite you back to Colorado.5
6. What if I am on probation in my home state when I get a DUI in Colorado?
If you are arrested for DUI in Colorado while you are on probation in your home state for a prior offense, contact a criminal defense attorney in your home state immediately. Should prosecutors in your home state discover your Colorado DUI, they will ask the court to:
- revoke your probation and
- possibly remand you to jail (depending on the terms of probation).
For more information about Colorado DUI laws, refer to our related articles:
- Driving under restraint (CRS 42-2-138) – discussion of the penalties for driving in Colorado on a Colorado- or an out-of-state driver’s license
- Reckless driving (CRS 42-4-1401) – overview of this lesser crime than DUI; some DUI charges can be reduced to as part of a plea bargain
- Colorado driving record – a guide for checking how many points are on your license
- Felony DUI – an explanation of how multiple DUIs (at least 3) trigger a felony charge, and how even a first-time charge is a DUI if it results in serious injury
- 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.
- CRS 42-4-1301; see also Felger v. Bd. of County Comm’rs (Colo. App. 1989). 776 P.2d 1169.
- CRS 16-19-104.