Motorists under the age of 21 who drink and drive in Colorado could face 3 possible charges: (1) Underage drinking and driving for a BAC of 0.02% to 0.05%, (2) DWAI for a BAC of more than 0.05% to less than 0.08%, and (3) DUI for a BAC of 0.08% or greater.
Colorado’s UDD laws reflect the state’s “zero tolerance” policy for underage drinking. A first-time UDD – also called “baby DUI” – is a class A traffic infraction punishable by a 3-month license revocation, 24 hours of useful public service, $100 in fines, alcohol/drug classes, but no jail time. Under-21 drivers in DWAI or DUI cases face the same penalties as adults do.
In this article, our Colorado DUI defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What are UDD penalties in Colorado?
- 2. Will I lose my license for UDD?
- 3. How can I fight the charges?
- 4. What if my BAC was over 0.05%?
- 5. What are the immigration consequences?
- 6. Can the criminal record be sealed?
1. What are UDD penalties in Colorado?
The punishments for underage driving under the influence of alcohol increase with each successive offense:
UDD (underage drinking and driving) offense
|First UDD||Class A traffic infraction: |
|Second UDD||Class 2 traffic misdemeanor: |
|Third of subsequent UDD||Class 2 traffic misdemeanor: |
|* Since a first conviction of UDD is only an infraction, it is technically not a crime. After one month, defendants may be able to get a probationary license for a two-month suspension period. This “red license” allows the defendant to commute to and from work and school.2|
2. Will I lose my license for UDD?
A first offense underage DUI in Colorado triggers a 3-month driver’s license revocation. The revocation period increases to 6 months for a second offense and 1 year for a third or subsequent offense of underage DUI.
Length of Colorado driver’s license revocation*
|First offense||3-month revocation |
After one month, defendants may apply for a probationary license for the remaining two-month driver’s license suspension. This “red license” permits them to drive to and from work and school during those two months.
|Second offense||6-month revocation|
|Third or subsequent offense||1-year revocation3|
|* Non-Colorado defendants will likely have their home state driver’s licenses revoked as well. Out-of-state defendants should consult a local attorney in their home state about their options for fighting the revocation.|
UDD defendants may request a DMV administrative hearing to contest their license revocation. But defendants need to win both the DMV hearing as well as the criminal case – which is entirely separate from the DMV case – to avoid a license revocation. Winning the DMV hearing – but getting a UDD conviction – will still trigger a license revocation. Likewise, getting the UDD case dismissed – but losing the DMV hearing – will also trigger a license revocation. Learn more about license revocations in underage DUI cases.
DMV hearings are actually harder for DUI lawyers to win than criminal cases. In criminal cases, prosecutors have the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – which is a very high standard. In DMV administrative hearings, the bar is much lower. But UDD defendants are still encouraged to request DMV hearings even if the evidence is stacked against them. They serve as valuable “dry runs” for the criminal case.
3. How can I fight the charges?
Three potential defenses to Colorado UDD charges include:
- The police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull over the defendant. For example, perhaps the police were racially profiling the defendant.
- During the traffic stop, the police did not have a reasonable basis to suspect the defendant had consumed any alcohol. And the officer was wrong to ask the defendant to submit to a breath test.
- The breathalyzer was defective or not administered correctly. Therefore, any results it returned are unreliable.
It is not a defense that the defendant was driving safely and without impairment. This is because Colorado has a “zero-tolerance law” policy for underage drinking – making UDD a strict liability offense. Colorado UDD laws prohibit underage people from diving with virtually any alcohol in their system, even if it is from swishing with mouthwash or consuming a dessert made with alcohol.4
4. What if my BAC was over 0.05%?
Underage drivers are prosecuted the same as adults if their BAC is higher than 0.05%.
Blood alcohol concentration
Colorado driving offense
|BAC above 0.05% to less than 0.08%|| |
A first-time offense is a misdemeanor:
|BAC of 0.08% or higher|| |
A first-time offense is a misdemeanor:
Defendants with a BAC of at least 0.15% are designated as persistent drunk drivers (PDD) and sentenced as repeat-DUI offenders.6
Note that underage people caught driving under the influence of drugs face the above DUI per se penalties.7
5. What are the immigration consequences?
An underage drinking and driving offense is usually not deportable.8 But non-citizens facing a DUI case should still consult experienced legal counsel to fight the charges. Immigration law is always changing, and immigrants should strive to keep their record clear – especially if they are pursuing full citizenship.
Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Colorado.
6. Can the criminal record be sealed?
A Colorado UDD conviction may be expunged once the defendant turns 21 years old if:
- The defendant has not had any more underage drunk driving convictions; and
- The case has closed; and
- The defendant has never held a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and was not driving a commercial motor vehicle at the time of the offense.
Defendants wishing to expunge their UDD conviction must file a petition for expungement – JDF 305 – with the court. There is no filing fee. And there is no waiting period to expunge a UDD case that was dismissed.9
Note that a regular DWAI or DUI conviction can never be sealed from the defendant’s record.10
Learn more about sealing Colorado criminal records.
Our law firm creates attorney-client relationships throughout the state, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Adams County, Boulder, and more. Our DUI attorneys provide free consultations and legal advice on fighting for the best possible outcome and preventing driver’s license revocations. Contact us by phone or through our contact form.
Learn more about Colorado DUI laws.
Arrested in California? See our article on California underage DUI laws.
Arrested in Nevada? See our article on Nevada underage DUI laws.
Disclaimer: Past results are not a guarantee of future results.
- CRS 42-4-1301(2)(d).
- Driver Services – Frequently Asked Questions, Colorado Department of Revenue. Probationary driver’s licenses are also called “restricted licenses”, “provisional licenses”, or “red licenses”.
- CRS 42-2-126.
- See Teen Driving Restrictions, Colorado Department of Transportation.
- CRS 42-4-1301; see also Reyna-Abarca v. People, 390 P.3d 816 (2017); see also Turbyne v. People, 151 P.3d 563 (2007)
- See 8 USC 1227.
- CRS 42-2-121.
- CRS 24-72-706.