DUI Laws in Colorado

This article provides a comprehensive overview of Colorado's DUI laws, including definitions, penalties, legal procedures, and resources for those affected by DUI charges.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Colorado, with stringent laws and severe penalties aimed at curbing impaired driving and ensuring public safety. This article provides a comprehensive overview of Colorado's DUI laws, including definitions, penalties, legal procedures, and resources for those affected by DUI charges.

DUI and DWAI

In Colorado, DUI stands for "Driving Under the Influence," while DWAI stands for "Driving While Ability Impaired." Both offenses involve operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, but they differ in the level of impairment required for conviction.

  • DUI: A person is considered to be driving under the influence if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. DUI also applies if the driver is substantially incapable of safely operating a vehicle due to alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.
  • DWAI: A person is considered to be driving while ability impaired if their BAC is between 0.05% and 0.08%, or if they are impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

Relevant Statutes

The primary statute governing DUI and DWAI offenses in Colorado is Colorado Revised Statutes Section 42-4-1301. This statute outlines the definitions, penalties, and procedures related to DUI and DWAI offenses. You can access the full text of the statute here.

Penalties for DUI and DWAI

First Offense

For a first-time DUI offense, the penalties can include:

  • Fines: Between $600 and $1,000.
  • Jail Time: 5 days to 1 year.
  • Community Service: 48 to 96 hours.
  • License Suspension: 9 months.
  • Alcohol Education and Treatment: Mandatory participation in an alcohol education and treatment program.

For a first-time DWAI offense, the penalties are slightly less severe:

  • Fines: Between $200 and $500.
  • Jail Time: 2 to 180 days.
  • Community Service: 24 to 48 hours.
  • License Suspension: No mandatory suspension, but 8 points are added to the driver's record.

Second Offense

A second DUI offense within five years carries harsher penalties:

  • Fines: Between $600 and $1,500.
  • Jail Time: 10 days to 1 year.
  • Community Service: 48 to 120 hours.
  • License Suspension: 1 year.
  • Alcohol Education and Treatment: Mandatory participation in an alcohol education and treatment program.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required for 2 years after license reinstatement.

For a second DWAI offense, the penalties include:

  • Fines: Between $300 and $1,000.
  • Jail Time: 10 days to 1 year.
  • Community Service: 48 to 120 hours.
  • License Suspension: 1 year.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required for 2 years after license reinstatement.

Third and Subsequent Offenses

For a third or subsequent DUI offense, the penalties are even more severe:

  • Fines: Between $600 and $1,500.
  • Jail Time: 60 days to 1 year.
  • Community Service: 48 to 120 hours.
  • License Suspension: 2 years.
  • Alcohol Education and Treatment: Mandatory participation in an alcohol education and treatment program.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required for 2 years after license reinstatement.

For a third or subsequent DWAI offense, the penalties include:

  • Fines: Between $300 and $1,000.
  • Jail Time: 60 days to 1 year.
  • Community Service: 48 to 120 hours.
  • License Suspension: 2 years.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required for 2 years after license reinstatement.

Aggravating Factors

Certain aggravating factors can lead to enhanced penalties for DUI and DWAI offenses. These factors include:

  • High BAC: A BAC of 0.15% or higher.
  • Accidents: Causing an accident that results in injury or death.
  • Child Endangerment: Having a child under 16 years old in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

Arrest and Chemical Testing

When a law enforcement officer suspects a driver of DUI or DWAI, they may conduct a traffic stop and administer field sobriety tests. If the officer has probable cause to believe the driver is impaired, they can arrest the driver and request a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine) to determine the driver's BAC.

Colorado's implied consent law requires drivers to submit to chemical testing if they are arrested for DUI or DWAI. Refusing to take a chemical test can result in immediate penalties, including:

  • License Revocation: 1 year for the first refusal, 2 years for the second refusal, and 3 years for the third refusal.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required for 2 years after license reinstatement.

Administrative Penalties

In addition to criminal penalties, DUI and DWAI offenses carry administrative penalties imposed by the Colorado Department of Revenue. These penalties include:

  • License Suspension: Automatic suspension of driving privileges.
  • Points on Driving Record: 12 points for DUI and 8 points for DWAI.

Court Process

The court process for DUI and DWAI offenses typically involves several stages:

  1. Arraignment: The defendant is formally charged and enters a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).
  2. Pretrial Motions: Both the defense and prosecution can file motions to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or request other legal actions.
  3. Trial: If the case goes to trial, both sides present evidence and arguments, and a judge or jury determines the defendant's guilt or innocence.
  4. Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty, the judge imposes penalties based on the severity of the offense and any aggravating factors.

Resources and Support

Individuals charged with DUI or DWAI in Colorado are strongly advised to seek legal assistance. Experienced DUI attorneys can provide valuable guidance and representation throughout the legal process. Some resources for finding legal assistance include:

Alcohol Education and Treatment Programs

Participation in alcohol education and treatment programs is often a mandatory component of DUI and DWAI penalties. These programs aim to address the underlying issues related to alcohol and drug use and reduce the likelihood of reoffending. Some resources for finding approved programs include:

Victim Support

DUI and DWAI offenses can have devastating consequences for victims and their families. Several organizations provide support and resources for victims of impaired driving, including:

Conclusion

Colorado's DUI and DWAI laws are designed to deter impaired driving and protect public safety. The penalties for these offenses are severe and can include fines, jail time, license suspension, and mandatory participation in alcohol education and treatment programs. Understanding the legal framework, penalties, and procedures related to DUI and DWAI offenses is crucial for anyone facing these charges. Additionally, seeking legal assistance and accessing available resources can help individuals navigate the legal process and work towards a positive outcome. For more information, you can refer to official government resources such as the Colorado General Assembly and the Colorado Department of Revenue.

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