Colorado DWAI – Driving While Ability Impaired


Colorado DWAI – "Driving While Ability Impaired"

Colorado makes it a crime to drive if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs “in the slightest degree.” This is known as driving while ability impaired, or DWAI.

Driving while ability impaired is usually a misdemeanor in Colorado. Your license will not be revoked unless the violation puts you over the point limit on your Colorado DMV driving record. However, penalties can include jail time, a fine, and community service.

To help you better understand the consequences of Colorado DWAI, our Colorado DUI / DWAI defense lawyers discuss the following, below: 

1. What is Colorado DWAI?

Under Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1301 (1)(g), C.R.S., you drive while ability impaired when you are affected by alcohol and/or drugs in “the slightest degree.” For purposes of Colorado's DWAI law, this means that you are less able mentally and/or physically to safely operate a vehicle than you ordinarily would have been.

Generally, you are considered ability impaired in Colorado when your blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) is over .05%, but less than Colorado's “legal limit” of .08% for a DUI per se.

2. How does the prosecutor prove DWAI?

Unlike DUI, there is no set BAC level at which you are automatically guilty of DWAI. DWAI requires actual impairment. So if your BAC was less than .08% and your driving was not impaired, you did not commit DWAI.

However, if your BAC is greater than .05% (but less than .08%), it is strong evidence that your driving was impaired.1 Usually this will be shown with results from a DUI breath or blood test.

You may be tempted to refuse to take a chemical test in order to avoid this result. Be advised, however, that there are significant penalties for a DUI test refusal in Colorado. These include automatic suspension of your Colorado driving privilege, as well as a fine and possible jail time. Your refusal may also be introduced as evidence that you were, in fact, guilty of DWAI.2

Penalties for DWAI in Colorado

The “number” of your offense includes convictions for both DUI and/or DWAI in any U.S. state or territory. Consequences of Colorado DWAI can include:

3.1. First offense

  • 2 days-180 days in jail,
  • A fine of $200-500,
  • 24-48 hours of community service, and
  • 8 points on your DMV driving record. 

3.2. Second offense 

  • 10 days-one year in jail (with10 days mandatory),
  • A fine of $600-$1,500,
  • 48-120 hours of community service, and
  • 8 points on your DMV driving record. 

3.3. Third offense 

  • 60 days-one year in jail (with 60 days mandatory),
  • A fine of $600-$1,500,
  • 48-120 hours of community service, and
  • 8 points on your DMV driving record. 

3.4. Felony DWAI

DWAI becomes a Colorado class 4 felony when the violation occurs after three or more prior convictions for: 

Consequences of a Colorado felony DUI conviction can include: 

  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000,
  • Two to six years in Colorado state prison, and
  • Three years of mandatory parole. 

Learn more about DUI fourths.

4. DWAI defenses

A skilled Colorado DUI attorney has numerous ways to defend you against DWAI charges. Common defenses to DWAI include (but are not limited to): 

  • Your BAC was less than .05% when you drove.
  • Your driving was not at all impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.
  • The officer had no probable cause for pulling you over.
  • The officer failed to advise you of your rights.
  • You were not lawfully arrested.
  • You were suspected of DWAI solely because you carried a medical marijuana I.D. card.3
  • Your DUI breath or blood test was not conducted in accordance with Colorado regulations as set forth in 5 CCR 1005-2. 

Call us for help…

If you or someone you know has been charged with DWAI, our caring Colorado DUI / DWAI lawyers can help. We defend people accused of drunk or drugged driving throughout the state of Colorado.

Contact us for a free consultation using the form on this page. Or call us at our Denver home office. We will respond promptly to discuss your case and your best DWAI defenses.

Our Denver DUI / DWAI office is located at:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 222-0330

Legal references:

  1. See 42-4-1301 (6)(a)(II).
  2. 42-4-1301 (6)(d), C.R.S.
  3. 42-4-1301 (6)(k), C.R.S.


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