Colorado DUI Laws and Penalties

Did a State Trooper stop you in Denver, Colorado Springs or Aurora? Or perhaps a County Sheriff pulled you over in Lakewood, Fort Collins or Arvada? Did a local Police Officer ask you to step out of your car in Pueblo, Westminster or Boulder? If you have been questioned for suspicion of drunk driving, then hopefully you are beginning to understand that Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, (commonly called DWI, or Driving While Intoxicated, in other states) is a serious offense in Colorado.

review the definitions and penalties for DUI in Colorado (as outlined by Colorado’s Office of Legislative Legal Services in Colorado Drunk Driving Laws, updated August 2009, and the Colorado Department of Transportation’s website).

Colorado makes three distinctions for drivers arrested for drunk driving who are age twenty-one and older:

  • DWAI (Driving While Abilities Impaired by alcohol or drugs) for blood alcohol test results of 0.05% or higher, but less than 0.08%
  • DUI (Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs) for blood alcohol test results of 0.08% or higher
  • Persistent Drunk Driver for blood alcohol test results of 0.17% or higher

Many Coloradoans mistakenly believe they are not breaking any state laws while driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) less than 0.08%. But as we’ll detail below, any BAC of 0.05% or higher for drivers can result in jail time, financial penalties and license suspension.

For drivers under age twenty-one, however, a higher standard of sobriety applies. A BAC test result of .02% to .05% is punished as follows (the terms used will be explained shortly):

  • 1st Offense
    • Fine of $100
    • Public Service Requirement of up to twenty-four hours
    • Driver’s License Suspension for three months
    • Addition of four points to the driver’s motor vehicle record**
  • 2nd Offense
    • Fine of $100
    • Public Service Requirement of up to twenty-four hours
    • Driver’s License Suspension for six months
    • Addition of four points to the driver’s motor vehicle record**
  • 3rd and Subsequent Offenses
    • Fine of $100
    • Public Service Requirement of up to twenty-four hours
    • Driver’s License Suspension for one year
    • Addition of four points to the driver’s motor vehicle record**

For a driver under age twenty-one with a BAC test result of 0.05% or higher, the penalties for adults may apply.

Colorado operates under the Expressed Consent Law, which means that the law presumes that every driver has consented to take a blood, breath, saliva, urine and/or any chemical test when asked to do so by a Law Enforcement Officer suspecting them of DUI or DWAI. Should a driver refuse to submit to a requested test, his driver’s license may be revoked, and his refusal may be admitted in court as presumption of guilt.

Should you be arrested for DUI or DWAI and have your license suspended or revoked, you have seven days to appear at a Colorado State Driver’s License Office to request a hearing. If the arresting officer did not confiscate your driver’s license, you must surrender it at the Driver’s License Office in order to receive a temporary driver’s license permit, which will be valid until your hearing. Part of your sentencing at the hearing may require you to attend and complete (at your expense) driver education classes on alcohol. It is worth noting that a driver’s license “suspension” is completely different from a “revocation”:

  • A “suspension” is a penalty that temporarily withdraws the driving privileges without voiding the license. Once all of the terms of the suspension have been met, drivers must pay a $95.00 fee to be considered for restoration of your driving privileges.
  • A “revocation” completely voids the license; after the prescribed revocation period, a driver must re-apply and re-test (written and behind the wheel) for the privilege to drive under a new driver’s license.

It should be noted that Colorado is one of the few states that allows for license suspension solely based on BAC test results, regardless of whether a DUI conviction ensues.

  • A BAC test result of 0.08% or higher equals an automatic license suspension for nine months.
  • A second BAC test result of 0.08% or higher equals an automatic license suspension for one year.
  • A third BAC test result of 0.08% or higher equals an automatic license suspension for two years.

Should the driver be convicted of DUI, the court will determine which license suspension or revocation penalty to enforce.

Now for Colorado’s DUI and DWAI penalties for drivers age twenty-one and older:

  • First DWAI Conviction
    • Jail Term ranging from two days to one-hundred eighty days
    • Fines ranging from $200 to $500
    • Public Service Requirement ranging from twenty-four to forty-eight hours
    • Addition of eight points to the driver’s motor vehicle record**
  • Second DWAI within Five Years of a Prior DWAI Conviction
    • Jail Term ranging from forty-five days to one year
    • Fines ranging from $600 to $1,000
    • Public Service Requirement ranging from forty-eight to ninety-six hours
    • Driver’s License suspension for one year
    • Addition of 8 points to the driver’s motor vehicle record**
  • First DUI Conviction
    • Jail Term ranging from five days to one year
    • Fines ranging from $600 to $1,000
    • Public Service Requirement ranging from forty-eight to ninety-six hours
    • Driver’s License suspension for nine months
    • Addition of 12 points to the driver’s motor vehicle record**
  • Second DUI Conviction within Five Years of a Prior DUI Conviction
    • Jail Term ranging from ninety days to one year
    • Fines ranging from $1,000 to $1,500
    • Public Service Requirement ranging from sixty to one-hundred twenty hours
    • Driver’s License suspension for one year
    • Addition of 12 points to the driver’s motor vehicle record**
  • DWAI Conviction within Five Years of a Prior DUI Conviction
    • Jail Term ranging from sixty days to one year
    • Fines ranging from $800 to $1,200
    • Public Service Requirement ranging from fifty-two one-hundred four hours
    • Driver’s License suspension for one year
    • Addition of 8 points to the driver’s motor vehicle record**
  • DUI Conviction within Five Years of a Prior DWAI Conviction
    • Jail Term ranging from seventy days to one year
    • Fines ranging from $900 to $1,500
    • Public Service Requirement ranging from fifty-six to one-hundred twelve hours
    • Driver’s License suspension for one year
    • Addition of 12 points to the driver’s motor vehicle record**
  • Third or Subsequent DUI and/or DWAI Conviction
    • Driver’s License suspension for two years
    • Addition of 8 points for DWAI or 12 points for DUI on a driver’s motor vehicle record**
    • If the Third DUI or DWAI is within seven years of the prior convictions, a mandatory 5-year driver’s license revocation applies under the “habitual traffic offender” statute.
  • Additional Fines In addition to the fines listed above, a driver convicted of DUI or DWAI may be required to pay:
    • Court costs
    • Penalty surcharges of up to $500 to help offset programs aimed at persistent drunk drivers
    • Penalty surcharges to benefit the Crime Victim Compensation Fund
    • Any other fines the court sees fit to levy
  • Additional Penalties Should the driver’s be involved in an accident causing injury or death while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, much more stringent penalties will apply for Vehicular Assault and/or Vehicular Homicide.
  • Installation of Ignition Interlock Device for Repeat DUI or DWAI Offenders

The Ignition Interlock Device is installed in a driver’s vehicle and requires him to provide a breath sample within legal BAC limits in order to start his vehicle. Also, the driver may be required to provide breath samples at intervals while driving. A driver will be required by the court to install and maintain, at his own expense, a court-approved Ignition Interlock Device if his BAC test result is 0.17% or higher and any of these applies:

  • Driver’s license revocation for two DUI and/or DWAI convictions within five years.
  • Driver’s license revocation for three DUI and/or DWAI convictions within a driver’s lifetime.
  • Driver’s license revocation for designation by the court as a Habitual Traffic Offender if one of the prior convictions was a DUI or DWAI.

Installation and maintenance costs of the Ignition Interlock Device can easily cost over $1,000 per year.

**Colorado’s Department of Motor Vehicles operates on a “point system.” Drivers are assigned points for various violations of driving laws, and alcohol and drug-related violations are included in this point system.  Here are the point totals that will result in a driver’s license suspension:

  • Adult Drivers, age 21 and older
    • 12 points in any 12 consecutive months
    • 18 points in any 24 consecutive months
  • Minor Drivers, ages 18 thru 20 years of age
    • 9 points in any 12 consecutive months
    • 12 points in any 24 consecutive months
    • 14 or more points between the ages of 18-21
  • Drivers under the Age of 18
    • 6 points in 12 consecutive months
    • 7 points prior to turning 18

Are you overwhelmed by Colorado’s list of DUI and DWAI penalties? Do you see how serious a DUI or DWAI arrest in Colorado really is? You have the right to consult with a DUI attorney. If you have not already contacted one, why haven’t you contacted one? Colorado Law Enforcement Officers and District Attorneys pursue suspected DUI and DWAI offenders to the full extent the law allows. If you have been arrested for DUI or DWAI in Colorado, your next move should be to contact a DUI or DWAI attorney immediately, either by telephone or online. Just review the lengthy list of penalties above, which include driver’s license suspension and/or revocation, significant fines, jail time, lengthy community service requirements, point after point added to your motor vehicle record as well as possible felony convictions. Your arresting officer will work closely with the District Attorney in an effort to convict you and punish you in every legal means. So who is working closely with you? Do not make the ill-advised decision to “go it alone” in court. Contact a Colorado DUI /DWAI attorney today.

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