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DUI Penalties in Colorado

April 29, 2021

Facing your first DUI (driving under the influence) or DWAI (driving while ability impaired) in Colorado, you may feel that the easiest option is just to let the legal chips fall where they may. “Even if I hire an attorney, I’ll end up with the same terms,” you may think to yourself.

Wrong. There are always legal challenges to be made that can potentially reduce the penalty or the charge, or even both. The right attorney can question everything from probable cause (“Why were you even pulled over?) to the breath or blood test (“Was the test administered legally and the results not tainted by officer mistakes or mishandling?”).

If you’re facing a DUI or DWAI charge in or around Boulder, Colorado, call me — attorney Jennifer Watkins — for experienced and focused representation aimed at achieving the best outcome available to you. With a track record of more than two decades fighting for my clients' rights, I will defend you and your license in court and before the DMV. Your welfare is my highest concern.

DUI and DWAI Charges in Colorado

Colorado has two levels of offenses for drinking and driving. A Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) charge results when you are tested by breath, blood, or urine and have a blood alcohol content of 0.05-0.07%. When your BAC reaches 0.08% and you’re a noncommercial driver, you can be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Commercial drivers of buses and other such vehicles are subject to a DUI charge if their BAC is 0.04% or higher. Drivers under 21 years of age are considered legally drunk when their BAC is 0.02% or higher. Penalties increase overall if your BAC reaches 0.15% or higher.

Enforcement of impaired driving laws in Colorado is tightened each summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In 2019, 2,999 drivers were arrested during the heightened enforcement period of just three months, up 11% from the previous year.

First-Time Offenses

A first-time DWAI can result in two to 180 days in jail, along with a fine of $200 to $500, 24-48 hours of public service, eight DMV points on your driving record, and up to two years of probation. The penalties for a first-time DUI are higher: five days to one year in jail, a fine of $600 to $1,000, 48 to 96 hours of public service, a license suspension of nine months, 12 DMV points, possible alcohol education classes, and up to two years of probation. Both offenses are considered misdemeanors.

Second-Time Offenses

For a second DWAI, jail time increases to five days to one year, fines increase to $600-$1,500, public service to 48-120 hours, eight DMV points, and at least two years of probation. In addition, your license can be suspended for a year. A second DUI results in 10 days to one year in jail, fines between $600 and $1,500, between 48 and 120 hours of public service, a one-year license suspension, ignition interlock device (IID) installation for two years, 12 DMV points, alcohol education classes, and at least two years of probation. Both charges are still misdemeanors.

Third-Time Offenses

The charges remain misdemeanors but penalties increase again. A third-time DWAI results in 60 days to one year in jail, a fine of $600 to $1,500, 48 to 120 hours of public service, two-year license suspension, eight DMV points, and at least two years of probation. A third-time DUI also results in an IID for two years, 12 DMV points, and alcohol education classes.

Four Strikes and You’re Out

After three DUIs or DWAIs — or any combination of them — a DUI can be prosecuted as a Class 4 felony. The prior offenses can have even occurred in other states and under different titles and still qualify as three strikes on your record. A Class 4 DUI felony can also be charged, even on a first offense, if your driving caused serious bodily injury (called vehicular assault) or resulted in a fatality (called vehicular homicide).

The penalties for a DUI felony include a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, two to six years in a Colorado state prison, and a mandatory three-year parole period. If the judge grants probation, you can still face 90 to 180 days in jail, or two years in jail through an alternative sentencing program, 48 to 120 hours of community service, and Level II alcohol and drug education classes. If the felony is for vehicular homicide, prison time increases to four to 12 years with a mandatory five-year parole period and a fine of between $3,000 and $750,000.

A felony conviction can also result in losing your right to vote or own firearms, to say nothing of the devastation it can cause you in your personal life and career.

How the Watkins
Law Firm LLC Can Help

I mentioned above how tactics and procedures used by police and investigators, and even by blood sample laboratories, can be challenged on different legal grounds. The goal is always to cast doubt on the evidence and how it was gathered.

With my experience in Colorado courtrooms and in dealing with prosecutors, I also know how to best present your side of the story to help convince the authorities to lower or drop the charges against you. Your DUI or DWAI may potentially end up becoming just a charge of reckless or careless driving.

The point is that you can’t accomplish any of these goals by yourself. You might think the judge will give you the lighter end of the sentence because you’re a first-timer, but don’t count on it. You need solid legal representation to challenge everything brought against you.

If you’re facing a DUI or DWAI in Boulder, or nearby in Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, or Broomfield, call me immediately at the Watkins Law Firm LLC. I will listen to your story, investigate the details of your unique situation, and work with you to outline a strong defense strategy aimed at securing the best possible outcome for your case.