Learn What You Need to Know If You Face a DUI in Colorado
Facing a DUI in Colorado could lead to grave consequences.
Colorado DUI laws are some of the toughest in the nation.
Thus, you will need the assistance of a highly-skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer.
If police arrested you in Colorado Springs, you should not wait to contact a DUI lawyer who has a proven track record of successfully defending DUI cases.
Austin M. Lux was a prosecutor. Now he is an award-winning Colorado Springs DUI defense attorney.
Austin focuses his practice on defending people charged with a Colorado DUI, among other criminal offenses.
You can rely on Austin’s experience and extensive knowledge of Colorado DUI laws to help avoid the harsh consequences of a mistake.
Colorado DUI Penalties
Under Colorado DUI law, a person can be convicted of DUI if they operate a motor vehicle when
- Their ability to drive safely is substantially impaired by either drugs or alcohol, or
- They have a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or greater.
Driving under the influence (DUI), driving with your ability impaired (DWAI), and driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) are crimes that fall under the same law.
Penalty for First Offense DUI in Colorado
A first DUI offense charge in Colorado is a misdemeanor. The penalty for a first DUI conviction in Colorado is surprisingly harsh.
After a conviction for a first DUI in Colorado, if you took a breath test or chemical test that gave a result of 0.08 or greater, you face:
- Between five days and one year in jail;
- A fine not to exceed $1,000;
- Compulsory license revocation of up to nine months;
- Community service obligation up to 96 hours; and
- Alcohol education classes.
The judge could put you on probation to ensure that you satisfy all the requirements following a first DUI conviction.
Mandatory Jail Time for a DUI First Offense
Prosecutors can seek an enhanced penalty against a person facing DUI charges in Colorado for many reasons. Enhanced penalties often include mandatory jail time, along with other sanctions.
The prosecution could seek an enhanced penalty if you have a breath or chemical test resulting in a BAC of 0.20 or greater. In that case, the judge must sentence you to at least 10 days in jail.
The judge has the discretion to grant you a work release or serve your sentence on home confinement while wearing a GPS ankle bracelet.
The Difference Between DUI Per Se and DWAI
DUI per se refers to providing a chemical test result or a breath test result of 0.08 or higher. DWAI is a charge that can be based solely on the observations of the police officer.
To support a conviction for DWAI, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused drove when the person’s ability to do so safely was impaired.
This can be done even without the results of a chemical test or if the chemical test results fall between 0.051 and 0.079 BAC.
The penalties for a DWAI conviction are less severe than a conviction for DUI per se.
The potential sentence for a conviction of DWAI includes:
- Two days to 180 days in jail;
- A fine not to exceed $500;
- 48 hours of community service; and
- Eight points against your driver license.
The judge has the authority to place you on probation for a conviction of DWAI as well.
The reduced penalties for DWAI are not necessarily an incentive to refuse the breathalyzer because of Colorado’s express consent law.
Express Consent Law in Colorado
You should be aware that Colorado has an express consent law.
Therefore, any person who drives in Colorado agrees to take a chemical test if a police officer believes that the driver is under the influence.
Refusing to take the chemical test has consequences.
First, Colorado law allows the prosecution to use the chemical test refusal as evidence of guilt at your trial.
Essentially, the prosecution gets to argue to the jury that you refused the breath or other chemical test because you knew you had a BAC of 0.08 or above. That is compelling evidence.
Secondly, the Colorado DMV will suspend your license for one year for refusing the breath test and may consider you to be a persistent drunk driver (PDD).
You have the opportunity to reinstate your license if you take alcohol education classes and agree to use an ignition interlock device for up to two years.
Colorado law imposes these sanctions against you even if the jury finds you not guilty after trial.
These are administrative penalties and work in conjunction with any criminal penalties imposed.
You have the right to appeal the DMV’s decision to suspend your license for refusing to take a breath test. You must file that appeal within seven days of your DUI arrest. Missing that deadline means you lose your right to appeal.
Second Offense DUI in Colorado
If police charge you with a DUI second offense, then you are facing potentially more severe repercussions. However, the length of time between your first and second offenses may determine whether the judge treats you as a first-time offender.
If you have a second DUI in Colorado, the judge could treat you as a first-time offender if your prior conviction was at least 10 years prior.
You should be aware that all convictions for DUI outside of Colorado count toward a second offense DUI.
The first and second DUI penalties are similar. For a DUI second offense, which is a misdemeanor, you face up to:
- A minimum of 10 days in jail, with a maximum of one year;
- A fine between $600 and $1,500;
- License suspension for at least one year;
- At least 48 hours of community service, up to 120 hours;
- Two years of probation;
- Level II alcohol education; and
- Possible installation of an ignition interlocking device.
The judge can also order you to enter into a treatment program for alcohol addiction for a second DUI in Colorado.
Third Offense DUI
If you have a third DUI in Colorado, you are still facing a misdemeanor charge. However, a conviction for a third offense DUI carries mandatory jail time, larger fines, and increased license loss.
The possible consequences of a third DUI in Colorado are:
- Minimum-mandatory 60 days in jail, up to one year in jail;
- License revocation of at least two years, but possibly up to five years;
- Probation for up to four years;
- Random chemical testing by probation called monitored sobriety testing;
- Alcohol education classes;
- Intense therapy for addiction; and
- Community service up to 120 hours.
Furthermore, the Colorado DMV will automatically revoke your license immediately after police charge you with a third DUI, even if you are acquitted. The DMV will consider you a PDD and require you to use an interlocking device for at least two years, complete alcohol treatment, and file an SR-22 to prove you have appropriate liability insurance.
Contact an Experienced Colorado DUI Defense Attorney Right Away
You have the right to call a lawyer for advice after police arrested you for DUI in Colorado.
You should ask the police to allow you a phone call to discuss with your lawyer any questions you might have, such as if you should take a breathalyzer test or other chemical test.
You can also ask your lawyer to be present during questioning. Questioning does not often occur after a first DUI in Colorado unless the police are investigating an accident.
You have the right to refuse to answer questions.
If you choose to invoke that right, do so politely but firmly. The police must respect your right to remain silent.
What Can a DUI Lawyer Do for Me?
You might be tempted to tackle your case without talking to a lawyer first.
Doing so could make your situation worse.
A skilled Colorado DUI lawyer who understands Colorado DUI laws will evaluate your case and develop a strategy to minimize the impact a DUI in Colorado will have on you and your family.
A knowledgeable Colorado Springs DUI lawyer will:
- Review all reports and look for mistakes made by police;
- Contest the conclusions made by officers;
- Examine the chemical test results to determine if they satisfy the legal standards under Colorado law;
- Negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for a dismissal of your case or a reduced charge;
- Argue motions to suppress evidence based on constitutional violations; and
- Defend your rights at trial.
Contacting a defense lawyer who has a wealth of experience defending DUI cases should be your first step.
Results When It Matters Most
Facing a DUI in Colorado represents an incredibly trying time in your life. Every facet of your home life and even your professional life could be affected by a DUI charge.
Do not compound one mistake with another by hiring an attorney who lacks the necessary skills to help you through this difficult time.
Attorney Austin Lux prosecuted DUI cases as a county attorney.
Now he uses that wealth of knowledge to help you. Austin is an award-winning attorney with memberships in national DUI defense organizations.