When is DUI / DWAI a Felony in Colorado?

Felony DUI in Colorado

Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while ability impaired (DWAI) are usually misdemeanors in Colorado. But Colorado drunk or drugged driving becomes a felony when It causes an accident that results in death (vehicular homicide) or serious bodily injury (vehicular assault).

DUI and DWAI can also be punished as a felony if you have three prior DUI and/or DWAI convictions in any state or U.S. territory.

In this article, our top Colorado DUI defense lawyers explain the penalties and consequences of a felony DUI or DWAI conviction.

1. Vehicular homicide – 18-3-106(1)(b)(I), C.R.S.

DUI is a Colorado class 3 felony when it causes an accident that results in the death of any person. It is a form of vehicular homicide.1

Criminal penalties for Colorado DUI vehicular homicide can include:

  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000, and/or
  • 4-12 years in prison, with a mandatory 5-year parole period.

Additional consequences of a felony DUI conviction include revocation of your Colorado driver's license.

2. Vehicular assault -- 18-3-205(1)(b)(I), C.R.S.

When DUI is the proximate cause of an accident that results in serious bodily injury, it is a form of vehicular assault.2 

"Serious bodily injury" is one that involves a substantial risk of:

  • death,
  • serious permanent disfigurement,
  • protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, 
  • breaks/fractures, or 
  • second- or third-degree burns.3

These risks can be ones that exist either at the time of the actual injury or develop later as a result of the accident.

DUI vehicular assault is a class 4 Colorado felony. Criminal penalties include:

  • A fine of $2,000 to $500,000, and/or
  • Two to six years in Colorado state prison, w/ three years mandatory parole.

However, the court must determine that putting you in prison is the most suitable option given the facts and circumstances of your case. Factors the court will consider include:

  • Your willingness to participate in alcohol and/or drug treatment, and
  • Whether there are other reasonable and appropriate penalties that may be successful and do not pose an unacceptable risk to public safety.

Other consequences of DUI vehicular assault include revocation of your Colorado driver's license.

3. Fourth or subsequent DUI / DWAI conviction -- 42-4-1301(1)(a) and (b), C.R.S.

As of August 2015, Colorado DUI and DWAI are class 4 felonies if you have three prior DUI and/or DWAI convictions in any U.S. state or territory.

The penalties and consequences of a fourth or subsequent Colorado DUI or DWAI conviction are the same as those set forth for vehicular assault, above.

Call us for help…

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If you have been charged in Colorado with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, DUI or DWAI, we can help. Our caring Colorado criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience defending clients accused of drunk and drugged driving. Find out why we are considered some of the best DUI lawyers in Colorado.

We represent clients in both criminal proceedings and at Colorado DMV license revocation hearings. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person at our centrally located Denver office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street ste. 400
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
(303) 222-0330

Legal references:

  1. You also commit vehicular homicide when because of reckless driving you cause an accident that leads to death. 18-3-106(1)(a) , C.R.S.
  2. You also commit vehicular assault when you drive in a reckless manner and it is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to another. 18-3-205(1)(a), C.R.S.
  3. 18-1-901(3)(p), C.R.S.


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