Driving under the influence can result in severe consequences. Doing so puts yourself and others in danger. The state of Colorado takes this offense very seriously. Some people assume that because they were never caught before, they never will be. Or they believe that if they do get pulled over, they can get out of it because it is their first offense. Even if it is your first offense DUI in Colorado, you can still suffer long-term consequences for your actions.
If you have a DUI charge on your hands, you need to know what punishments you’re facing. This post, brought to you by WeedenLaw, will inform you of those. We will also cover what to do if you’re convicted of a first offense DUI. Here are some common questions surrounding DUI charges.
What is A DUI In Colorado?
In Colorado, the legal limit to drive with a BAC (blood alcohol content) is .08%. In fact, this is the federal BAC limit to legally operate a vehicle in any state. If your BAC reaches .08% or higher, you’re considered intoxicated and unable to drive.
If you’re found to be driving with a BAC of 0.15%, this is a high alcohol DUI. Regardless of whether this is your first offense or not, the state will classify you as a “persistent drunk driver.” This comes with harsher penalties and fines.
Not only is having alcohol in your system a cause for a DUI, but other substances can result in the charge as well. If you’re found to be under the influence of any kind of drug, the penalties are the same as drinking while driving. These drugs can include street drugs like meth, cocaine, and heroin. It also includes prescription drugs and marijuana.
Though marijuana is legal in Colorado, it is still illegal to drive under its influence. If a police officer finds any amount of THC in your blood while driving, they have a means to arrest you. Even if you have a medical marijuana card, this is not a valid defense.
If you’re pulled over under the suspicion of drunk or drugged driving, refusing a chemical test won’t do you any good. Express Consent Law requires drivers to consent to a chemical test. A police officer only needs grounds to believe you’ve been drinking or are on drugs. Refusing a test might prove evidence of guilt in a DUI trial and can result in the temporary loss of your license.
What Are The Penalties For A First Offense DUI In Colorado?
The penalties for a DUI charge in Colorado depend on a few factors. The most determining factor is whether this is the first offense or not. If it is the first offense, the next thing taken into account is your BAC. The penalties will likely increase if your BAC is high or if your driving resulted in an accident.
A first offense DUI is only considered such if you have no prior convictions of a DUI in Colorado or any other state. Some states will not look at prior convictions in other states. Colorado does factor this in and will increase your penalty if you’ve had any other similar convictions.
This includes the following:
- DUI per se
- Any driver found to have a BAC of 0.08% or higher
- DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired)
- Meaning you’re affected by drugs or alcohol in even the slightest degree
- BAC can be as low as .05% to show impairment
- Vehicular homicide involving alcohol or drugs
- Vehicular assault involving alcohol or drugs
If you’ve had no prior convictions, it’s considered your first offense DUI in Colorado. That doesn’t mean there are no penalties, though. You may receive anywhere from 5 days to a full year in jail. Fines for a first time offense can reach up to $1,000. You will also need to complete community service hours and alcohol education classes. Finally, your license will get confiscated for up to 9 months.
In the case that you were driving while impaired and received a DWAI, the punishments are a bit less harsh. Jail time can range from 2 to 180 days and fines of up to $500. You will also need to complete community service, though fewer hours.
Is A DUI in Colorado A Felony Or A Misdemeanor?
The first offense for a DUI in Colorado is generally a misdemeanor. This is not always certain, though. A DUI can become a felony if:
- The charge is the driver’s 4th offense, meaning they have 3 prior DUI convictions in their name.
- The death of another individual resulted from the driver’s DUI.
- Serious bodily injury resulted from the driver’s DUI.
Some states have what’s called a “washout” or “lookback” period. This means that after a certain amount of time, prior convictions will no longer be valid. Colorado does not consider this period in any case. No matter the amount of time that has passed, Colorado will still account for a prior conviction in any other state. A good lawyer may be able to negotiate a lesser sentence if your previous conviction occurred many years ago. Though it is ultimately up to the judge’s discretion.
If found that you have prior convictions in Colorado or any other state, the penalties will increase. The more offenses you’re charged with, the higher your jail time, fines, and community service hours rise.
Do I Need A Lawyer For A First Offense DUI In Colorado?
If you’re arrested for a DUI charge or even under the suspicion of drunk driving, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. A common misconception is that if it’s your first offense, it will be easy to get out of. This is not the case. Especially in a state like Colorado where these charges are harshly prosecuted.
Following the arrest, you have 7 days to request a hearing to keep your license before it’s revoked. An attorney will need all the time they can get to gather as much evidence they can to help your case.
Contact WeedenLaw Today
If you’re charged with a first offense DUI in Colorado, contact us at WeedenLaw. Jeffrey Weeden has practiced criminal defense for over 15 years. He’s helped countless clients protect their rights and freedoms while fighting to get the best possible outcome. Here at WeedenLaw, we’ll work with you to build a solid defense for your case before court.