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DWAI vs DUI Colorado

In Colorado, there are three different offenses associated with driving while impaired:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Driving while ability impaired (DWAI)
  • DUI per se

Since all three of these are typically misdemeanor offenses, they do not always result in jail time or significant fines. However, depending on the number of DUIs you have been charged with in the past, a DUI or a DWAI could result in a suspension of your license, and will certainly go on your record. 

Here’s what you need to know about Colorado DUI Laws:

Colorado DUI Penalties

Driving under the influence DUI is generally a misdemeanor offense. However, this largely depends on each individual’s past history with DUI.

1st Colorado DUI Penalties

The consequences for your first DUI in Colorado can potentially include:

  • 5 days-1 year in jail
  • A fine of $600-$1000
  • Your driver’s license suspended for up to 9 months, and
  • 48-96 hours of community service

At the time of your arrest, however, if your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is .15% or higher, you will be labeled a Colorado persistent drunk driver and will be charged as a repeat offender whether or not it is your first offense.

2nd Colorado DUI Penalties

In Colorado, a DUI or DWAI will be considered a 2nd offense if your first DUI or DWAI was in any US state or territory; therefore, it is still your 2nd offense even if your first DUI was not in Colorado.

Consequences for a 2nd DUI offense can include:

  • 10 days-1 year in jail
  • A fine of $600-$1500
  • Your driver’s license suspended for up to one year
  • 48-120 hours of community service, and
  • An ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle for two years upon reinstatement of your driver’s license.

With regard to this last penalty, an ignition interlock device is like a breathalyzer attached to your car. In order for the car to start, the driver must blow an alcohol-free breath. The driver will also be required to blow alcohol-free breaths at regular intervals once the car is moving, to ensure the driver is not under the influence of alcohol.

3rd Colorado DUI Penalties

Drivers with a third DUI on their record in Colorado can face consequences including:

  • 10 days-1 year in jail
  • A fine of $600-$1500
  • Your driver’s license suspended for up to two years
  • 48-120 hours of community service
  • An ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle for two years upon reinstatement of your driver’s license.

There are additional Colorado DUI penalties, such as:

  • Court-mandated alcohol education classes
  • 12 points on your Colorado driving record.

“Points” on your Colorado driving record can cause your license to be revoked or suspended if you accumulate too many in a certain period of time.

DWAI vs DUI Colorado

Though Colorado DUI laws and Colorado DWAI laws are similar in nature, the penalties are slightly different. DWAI, driving while ability impaired, is driving if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs “in the slightest degree”. This is generally what is known as “buzzed driving”. Normally, DWAI will not result in your license being revoked, but like with a DUI, the number of past DWAIs on your record has the most bearing on potential penalties for DWAI in Colorado.

1st Offense DWAI

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

2nd Offense DWAI

  • 10 days-1 year in jail (there is a 10-day mandatory sentence)
  • A fine of $600-$1500
  • 48-120 hours of community service
  • 8 points on your Colorado driving record

3rd Offense DWAI

  • 10 days-1 year in jail (with a 10-day mandatory sentence)
  • A fine of $600-$1500
  • 48-120 hours of community service
  • 8 points on your Colorado driving record

DUI Per Se

Many people become impaired at different blood alcohol concentrations, depending on their age or body weight. One person might become impaired at .05%, while another might seem as though they haven’t been drinking at all at .05%. 

Because of this, Colorado imposes a strict legal limit, beyond which a person is deemed too drunk to drive. According to C.R.S. 42-4-1301, you are considered to be driving while impaired in Colorado if your BAC is over .08%, whether or not your driving was erratic or dangerous. 

DUI Felony or DWAI Felony in Colorado

A DUI or  DWAI in Colorado can become a class 4 felony when more than 3 convictions occur, even if one or more of those convictions was not in Colorado. The convictions that count towards this number include:

  • DUI
  • DUI per se
  • DWAI
  • Vehicular homicide, or
  • Vehicular assault 

If you are charged with felony DUI in Colorado, penalties could include:

  • A fine of $2000-$500,000
  • Two to six years in Colorado state prison, and 
  • Three years of mandatory parole 

Can I Refuse a Chemical BAC Test?

By choosing to operate a motor vehicle in Colorado, you are giving “express consent” to a breathalyzer test or a blood test if you are arrested on suspicion of DUI or DWAI. 

You are, however, allowed to refuse the test. If you choose to do so, your license will automatically be suspended for one year. To regain your driving privileges at the end of that year, you will need to have an ignition interlock device installed on your car for two years, at your own expense. If your case goes to trial, your refusal to submit to a test will be admissible as evidence of your guilt. 

Underage DUI and DWAI Penalties in Colorado 

An underage driver is subject to the same DUI and DWAI laws and penalties as an adult driver if the underage driver is actually impaired or is found to have a BAC of .05% or higher.

In addition to this, Colorado has a “zero tolerance” policy for underage drinking and driving (UDD). Colorado’s UDD law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from driving with a BAC of .02% or higher. 

Like with DUIs and DWAIs, the penalties for UDD in Colorado escalate with each offense. 

1st Offense UDD in Colorado

Consequences  for your first UDD in Colorado can include:

  • Fine of up to $150
  • Suspension of driver’s license for up to 3 months 
  • Up to 24 hours of community service
  • 4 points on your Colorado driving record 

2nd Offense UDD in Colorado 

Consequences  for your second UDD in Colorado can include:

  • 10 days-90 days jail time
  • Suspension of driver’s license for up to 6 months
  • Fine of $150-$300
  • 48-120 hours of community service 
  • 4 points on your Colorado driving record

3rd Offense UDD in Colorado 

Consequences  for your third UDD in Colorado can include:

  • 10 days-90 days of jail time
  • Suspension of driver’s license for up to 6 months
  • Fine of $150-$300
  • 48-120 hours of community service 
  • 4 points on your Colorado driving record 

In addition to the above, the consequences of any Colorado UDD can include:

  • A mandated alcohol evaluation at your expense
  • An alcohol education or treatment program, also at your expense 

Contact Criminal Defense Attorney, Jeff Weeden at WeedenLaw

If you have been charged with a DUI in Colorado, time is of the essence. To minimize damage to your driving record, it is important to contact an attorney immediately.

For more information on DUIs, DWAIs, or UDD penalties in Colorado, or to discuss your case, call attorney Jeff Weeden at 720-307-4330. Phones are answered 24/7, and collect calls from inmates are accepted. Or, fill out a quick form to schedule a free consultation!

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