Driving under the influence is a crime in Colorado, but not all people charged with DUI will face the same penalties.
Aggravating factors will influence the charge you receive and your sentence (if convicted.) The best way to defend against these charges is to understand what they are.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Colorado, we know you have a lot of questions. Use this guide to answer yours and prepare yourself for your next steps.
What Are the Types of DUI Charges In Colorado?
The safest way to drive is clean and sober. If you are intoxicated or impaired by controlled substances, you may find yourself facing any one of Colorado’s DUI charges. There are five basic DUI charges outlined in Colorado’s laws. They are:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Adults over the age of 21 may face charges even if their blood alcohol content is between .05 and .08.
- Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI): Adults over the age of 21 may face charges if their blood alcohol content is between .05 and .08.
- Driving Under the Influence: Adults over the age of 21 may be charged with DUI if law enforcement believes that they are substantially incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle. This normally means that someone’s BAC is over .08.
- Driving Under the Influence per se (DUI per se): Adults over the age of 21 driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher face a DUI per se charge if there is a resulting chemical test (breath or blood) that confirms a BAC of over .08. Generally you will see someone charged with both DUI and DUI per se.
- Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID): Ever since Colorado legalized marijuana, they have been adjusting DUI laws to cover driving while high. If officers find five nanograms or more of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter in whole blood, you may be charged with DUID.
- Underage Drinking and Driving (UDD): Drivers who cannot legally drink should not have a blood alcohol content reading at all in the first place. If someone under the age of 21 is caught with a .02 BAC, they may face UDD charges. If their blood alcohol content is higher than .05, they may be subject to DUI or DWAI charges.
What Happens If My BAC Was At a .05-Level?
The difference between DUI and DUI per se can trip many people up. Most people are used to understanding DUI as a crime only when your BAC is above .08. However, according to Colorado law:
“If at such time the defendant’s BAC was in excess of 0.05 but less than 0.08, such fact gives rise to the permissible inference that the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle or vehicle was impaired by the consumption of alcohol, and such fact may also be considered with other competent evidence in determining whether or not the defendant was under the influence of alcohol.”
Because of this, keep in mind that blowing a .06 does not mean you are off the hook for DUI charges in this state, you will most likely be charged with DWAI.
Is DUI a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
The answer will depend on your record. If you have not faced a DUI-related charge before, you are most likely to face misdemeanor charges. (UDD is merely a traffic violation.) Penalties will likely continue to increase up until your fourth DUI-related charge. At that point, the charge is a class 4 felony.
What Are the Penalties for a First-Time DUI Offense?
Penalties vary by crime. If you have been charged with DUI or DUI per se, you may face:
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Nine months without a license
- Eight months with an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
- Between 48-96 hours of public service
For a DWAI charge, you may face:
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Up to $500 in fines
- Between 24-48 hours of public service
Offenders convicted of UDD will face 24 hours of public service, and potentially an alcohol education program.
Do Penalties Become More Severe After a Second or Third DUI?
Yes. Depending on the charge and your record, you may face mandatory jail time, higher fines, more hours of public service, or more time using an Ignition Interlock Device (IID).
What Is an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)?
An IID is a breathalyzer that connects to your car. Once your license is restored, you will be required to blow into the IID to start the car. If you blow over the legal limit, your car will not start.
Can I Get My Record Expunged After I Serve My Time?
In Colorado, DUI and DUI-related convictions are not eligible for expungement. If you plead guilty or are found guilty, this crime will remain on your record forever.
In order to qualify for expungement, the charges must be dropped, or you must be found “not guilty” in court. So, as you develop your legal defense, keep in mind that a plea deal can seal this fate, even if that means you serve less jail time or get back on the road faster.
Before you make that decision, talk to an experienced Colorado DUI attorney for more information on fighting charges and expunging your record.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.