Charges of felony DUI in Colorado are severe. You face felony DUI jail time and other repercussions if you stand convicted of a Colorado DUI felony.
Therefore, you need to do everything you can to protect your rights.
Would you know where to turn if you face criminal charges that could ruin your life?
Award-winning Colorado DUI defense lawyer Austin Lux possesses the necessary knowledge, skill, and determination to make a difference when you and your family need it most.
You can rely on former county prosecutor Austin Lux to fight vigorously to protect your valuable rights.
Is a DUI Considered a Felony in Colorado?
Colorado law establishes a felony charge for DUI, DUI per se, DWAI, and DUID.
Most folks understand DUI as an abbreviation for driving under the influence.
DUI per se refers to a chemical test result of 0.08 or greater. However, Colorado also uses the abbreviation DWAI or driving while ability impaired, as well.
DWAI refers to a chemical test result between 0.05 and 0.079 when the police have the slightest evidence of intoxication.
Additionally, Colorado law prohibits driving under the influence of drugs or DUID. We will refer to these charges collectively as DUI. The penalties for these charges are similar.
The difference between the three charges lies in the evidence the police plan to use against you.
How Many DUIs Are a Felony in Colorado?
Under Colorado law, DUI charges are misdemeanor offenses until you have three prior convictions. Your fourth and subsequent DUI offenses are Class 4 felonies.
Colorado, unlike some other states, uses a lifetime lookback rule for prior DUI convictions. Under Colorado law, any conviction for a DUI in any state or U.S. territory, no matter how old, serves as evidence of a prior conviction.
State law restricts prior convictions to convictions for separate offenses instead of several charges stemming from one incident. Also, state law allows prosecutors to use convictions from other states or territories.
These convictions count as long as the acts constituting a DUI crime in those jurisdictions would be a crime if committed in Colorado as an adult.
Colorado law allows prosecutors to use convictions for various offenses to prosecute a Colorado DUI felony.
The prosecution can use any combination of convictions for DUI, DUI per se, DWAI, DUID, vehicular homicide involving alcohol or drugs, and vehicular assault.
Colorado law explicitly requires the prosecutor to set out the prior convictions in an indictment or information.
The rule is essential to a person facing a felony DUI in Colorado. As we will see later, attacking the prior convictions might be a valid defense to a Colorado DUI felony.
This defense could not attack the prior convictions if the prosecutor did not notify the person charged.
What Is a DUI Conviction Under Colorado Law?
Colorado law explicitly defines conviction as a verdict of guilty.
A judge or jury could enter the guilty verdict after a trial or pleading guilty. The term conviction also applies to deferred judgments and sentences as well as deferred adjudications.
However, the prosecution cannot use a deferred sentence or adjudication against you as a prior conviction if you completed the deferred sentence successfully.
Thus, the prosecution could use a deferred sentence or deferred adjudication against you if you failed to satisfy the conditions set by the court, or you pick up another offense while on a deferred sentence or deferred adjudication.
What are the Felony DUI Penalties in Colorado?
Colorado strictly punishes individuals convicted of a fourth or subsequent DUI offense. Felony DUI in Colorado is a Class 4 felony.
As such, the sentencing judge could sentence you to prison for up to six years, which is the maximum sentence for a Class 4 felony.
Colorado law gives judges some leeway. Not every person convicted of felony DUI will go to prison. Under Colorado law, a felony DUI can result in a jail sentence of 90 to 180 days if the judge determines that is the proper sentence.
Alternatively, the judge could sentence you from 120 days up to two years in jail if you qualify for a work-release program.
As with every crime, the penalty depends on the facts of the case, the person’s history. The judge could also reduce the penalty if they find extraordinary mitigating factors exist. However, the prosecution has some say in the potential penalties.
The prosecution has another powerful tool it could use to exact even stricter punishment. The judge could sentence you from the midpoint of the Class 4 felony sentencing range (four years) up to double the maximum sentence (12 years) for a Felony DUI conviction.
However, the prosecutor must prove that aggravating circumstances exist before the judge could sentence you to an enhanced penalty.
Additional Felony DUI Penalties
Colorado’s DUI law authorizes the sentencing judge to impose additional sanctions for a Colorado DUI felony.
In addition to incarceration, the judge must impose sanctions such as:
- 48 to 120 hours of community service;
- A monetary fine between $2,000 and $5,000;
- Level II alcohol or drug education and treatment;
- Two years of probation;
- Parole for at least three years; and
- Two years of mandatory ignition interlock use after the reinstatement of driver’s license.
The minimum driver’s license revocation for a felony DUI in Colorado is one year.
Reduced Sentence for Colorado DUI Felony
Colorado’s DUI law expressly prohibits plea bargaining unless the prosecution in good faith convinces the judge that the case is weak as initially charged.
Only then can the judge accept a plea to a non-alcohol, a non-drug-related crime, or underage drinking and driving.
However, the law’s prohibition on negotiating a DUI case to reckless driving or other lesser offense does not mean that the judge will throw the book at you for a Colorado felony DUI conviction.
Colorado’s DUI statute expects judges to examine whether incarceration is the best option in each specific case.
The judge must consider other options if you never had a chance to complete probation or other less-restrictive sanctions in the past. However, the judge can explore this only if you pose no threat to public safety.
Defenses to Colorado Felony DUI Charges
The best option for your case might be different from someone else’s case.
Depending on the facts of your case, an experienced and seasoned DUI defense lawyer can:
- Negotiate with the prosecutor to bring lesser charges against you in exchange for your plea;
- Fight the charges at trial by arguing that the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to convict you;
- Argue to the judge that the evidence seized by the police should be suppressed because the police violated your constitutional rights; and
- Work to overturn your prior convictions so that you face misdemeanor charges rather than a felony DUI in Colorado.
Other options might be available to you. Contacting a knowledgeable DUI attorney right away to discuss your case is the best way to protect yourself.