Being arrested and charged with a DUI can be an overwhelming and scary experience. Many questions start racing through your head – how will this impact my driving privileges? What fines or legal consequences am I facing? How will a DUI affect my personal and professional life moving forward?
This blog post will provide an in-depth explanation of what qualifies as a DUI in Colorado, penalties for a first-time and repeat DUI offense, and how an experienced Colorado DUI defense attorney can help you navigate this difficult legal situation.
What is Considered a DUI in Colorado?
A DUI charge encompasses operating any vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs (including marijuana and prescription medications), or a combination of the two. The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Colorado is 0.08%.
This means that if you are stopped by law enforcement and a chemical test shows your BAC was 0.08% or above, you can be arrested and charged with a standard per se DUI. However, you can still face DUI charges even if your BAC is below 0.08% if the arresting officer determines you are driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs based on your performance on field sobriety tests, driving behavior, and other observations.
Common Ways a DUI Arrest Occurs
There are several common scenarios that generally lead to a DUI arrest in Colorado:
- Being pulled over at a traffic stop for weaving, swerving, speeding, or another traffic infraction and then exhibiting signs of impairment during questioning. The officer will likely ask you to step out of the vehicle to perform standardized field sobriety tests.
- Being involved in a car accident, even a minor one, and appearing impaired when police arrive on scene.
- Being spotted by law enforcement committing multiple traffic violations or driving dangerously and then failing field sobriety tests after being pulled over.
- DUI checkpoints, where all drivers are briefly checked for signs of impairment. Refusing the BAC test at a checkpoint can also lead to a DUI charge.
- Being reported by another driver for possible drunk driving. The driver will give police your license plate number and location so officers can track you down and evaluate if you are driving while impaired.
In any of these situations, the observations of the arresting officer during questioning and field sobriety tests plays a major role in determining if you are charged with a DUI. It is important to know your legal rights and potential defenses if you are stopped on suspicion of drunk driving.
What is the Difference Between a DUI and DWI?
The terms DUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) are often used interchangeably to refer to drunk or impaired driving charges. However, there are some key differences between DUI and DWI:
- DUI is used more commonly across most states to refer to any kind of impaired driving, whether due to alcohol, marijuana, prescription medications, or other intoxicating substances.
- DWI refers specifically to cases where the driver’s BAC is 0.08% or higher due to alcohol consumption. So DWI always involves alcohol impairment, while DUI is a broader term.
- Some states like Florida and others use DUI and DWI interchangeably for drunk driving charges.
- A few states such as New York use DWAI (driving while ability impaired) rather than DUI to indicate any type of impaired driving offense.
So in summary, DUI is the most widely used term to refer to any non-alcohol as well as alcohol-related impaired driving charges. DWI indicates driving impairment specifically due to alcohol intoxication above the legal limit.
DUI Conviction Consequences in Colorado
Being convicted of a DUI charge in Colorado can upend your life and have consequences that go far beyond the court-ordered penalties. Some key DUI penalties and collateral consequences in Colorado include:
Court-Ordered DUI Penalties
- Jail time – A first DUI offense is a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 1 year in jail. A fourth DUI can be charged as a felony with a minimum of 2 years up to 6 years in state prison.
- Fines and fees – Expect to pay between $600 to $1,500 in DUI fines, fees, restitution, and other court costs for a first offense. Repeat DUIs incur significantly higher fines up to $3,000-$10,000.
- License suspension – For a first DUI you can have your license suspended for 9 months. Future DUIs result in license revocation requiring an IID to drive.
- Probation – Most first-time DUI convictions involve 1-2 years of supervised probation.
- Alcohol education classes – Mandatory for all DUI offenders in Colorado.
- Ignition interlock device – Colorado requires most DUI offenders to install an IID in their vehicle for a period of time before full reinstatement of driving privileges.
DUI Collateral Consequences
Beyond the court penalties, a DUI conviction also leads to many additional civil and personal consequences:
- Difficulty finding or keeping employment, especially for jobs requiring driving
- Potential loss of professional licenses and certifications
- Massively increased car insurance rates for 3-5 years minimum
- Possible suspension of federal student aid if a drug-related DUI
- Limitations on international travel to countries like Canada
- Difficulty obtaining housing or adopting a child
- Social stigma and embarrassment
This is why it’s critical to fight DUI charges in Colorado before they lead to a conviction that permanently damages your life. An experienced DUI defense lawyer can help minimize penalties and avoid collateral consequences.
Fighting DUI Charges in Colorado with Legal Defense
Being arrested for DUI can be scary, but it does not automatically mean you will be convicted. There are many ways a skilled DUI lawyer can challenge the charges and evidence against you to get charges reduced or dismissed. Some examples include:
- Invalid traffic stop – Officers need probable cause to pull you over. If there was no legal reason for the initial stop, evidence can be suppressed.
- Faulty breathalyzer or blood test – These tests can produce false positives due to medical conditions, equipment issues, or improper administration.
- No proof of actual impairment – For drug DUIs, observations alone may be insufficient to prove you were truly impaired.
- Violation of rights – Mistreatment by police during arrest or lack of proper Miranda rights notification can invalidate a DUI charge.
- Minors in possession – Underage DUIs may be reduced or dismissed through diversion programs and other strategies.
Having an experienced Colorado DUI defense lawyer in your corner greatly improves the chances of avoiding a DUI conviction and minimizing the penalties if convicted.
Let Us Fight For You
Being arrested for DUI can jeopardize your driving privileges, future employment prospects, personal relationships, finances, and quality of life. But experienced legal representation can help you navigate this challenging scenario.
The Colorado DUI defense attorneys at Right Law Group have successfully represented hundreds of clients facing DUI charges throughout the state. We know Colorado’s drunk driving laws inside and out and exactly how to build the strongest case on your behalf.
If you or someone you care about is facing DUI charges, contact us 24/7 for a free consultation and case evaluation. Don’t leave your fate in anyone else’s hands – let our firm fight to protect your rights and future. Our office stands ready to aggressively defend you against these allegations so you can move forward with your life.