Colorado DUI Laws & Penalties


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More than 10,000 drunk drivers are being arrested in Colorado every year. The Centennial State is known as a liberal one, but it does not mean that the state does not punish those that put their own and other people’s lives and health under risk due to abuse of alcohol or drugs. You are not welcome on Colorado roads after having some drinks or drugs. If you had them and got behind the wheel anyway, you’ll be charged with DUI.

What is a Colorado DUI or DWAI Offense?

The State of Colorado makes a clear distinction between three types of offense due to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. They are:

  •  DUI, which is driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.
  • DUI per se, which is driving under influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination of both with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) above the prescribed limits.
  • DWAI, which is impaired driving under influence of substances, but with BAC below the legally prescribed limits.

A driver is deemed to be under the influence if he operates a vehicle with a BAC as follows:

  • 0.02% for drivers under the age of 21
  • 0.04% for commercial drivers
  • 0.08% for all other drivers

Having a BAC at or above these limits means a DUI per se offense. Being impaired, but under these limits, leads to a DWAI offense.

Aside from being caught with such a BAC or impairment by a police officer, you may get charged with DUI and convicted if you refuse to take a test upon request by the officer or by having an open container filled with alcohol in your vehicle while driving.

Operating a motor vehicle in Colorado means that you have expressed your consent to have your BAC tested. If you refuse to do so, you’ll be arrested and get DUI charges.

Also, you must not have an open container filled with alcohol in your car. Any glass, bottle, or another type of container that has a broken seal is prohibited in an operating vehicle. If you or any of your passenger have one, you won’t avoid DUI charges, even if you do not drink at all.

The only exception from the “open container” law are the passengers in a taxi or bus, or if the drink is in the living parts of a motorhome or house trailer.

What Are the Penalties for a DUI or DWAI in Colorado?

If you break any of these rules, you’ll get charged and possibly convicted for DUI. The conviction inevitably leads to penalties. They vary depending on how many times you have been convicted for DUI in the past.

Unlike many other US states, Colorado laws do not prescribe a lookback period. That means that every subsequent DUI offense will lead to harsher penalties.   that, Colorado courts tend to be harsher if the previous DUI offenses have been committed in the last 5 years.

Here are the penalties that you can expect for your Colorado DUI or DWAI:

First Colorado DUI Offense

The first Colorado DUI offense brings the following penalties:

  • 5 days to 1 year in jail.
  • $600-$1000 fine.
  • Driving license suspension of up to 9 months.
  • 48-96 hours of community service.
  • Colorado DUI classes.

If your BAC is 0.15% or higher, however, you’ll be punished as a repeat-time offender, even if this is your first DUI offense ever.

First Colorado DWAI Offense

Your first DWAI offense in Colorado leads to:

  • 2-80 days in jail.
  • $200-$500 fine.
  • 24-48 hours of community work.
  • 8 points on your DMV driving record.

Second Colorado DUI Offense

The second Colorado DUI offense brings slightly harsher penalties. They include:

  • 10 days to 1 year in jail.
  • $600-$1500 fine.
  • Driving license suspension of up to 1 year.
  • 48-120 hours of community service.
  • Driving with an ignition interlock device for 2 years after the driving license reinstatement.
  • DUI classes.

Second Colorado DWAI Offense

The second DWAI offense in Colorado leads to slightly harsher penalties as well. They include:

  • 10 days to 1 year in jail, with 10 days of mandatory jail time.
  • $600-$1500 fine.
  • 48-120 hours of community work.
  • 8 points on your DMV driving record.

Third Colorado DUI Offense

The third DUI offense brings the same risk of jail and fines, but expect to lose your driving license for a longer period of time. The penalties for the third Colorado DUI offense are as follows:

  • 10 days to 1 year in jail.
  • $600-$1500 fine.
  • Driving license suspension of up to 2 year.
  • 48-120 hours of community service.
  • Driving with an ignition interlock device for 2 years after the driving license reinstatement.
  • DUI education classes.

Third Colorado DWAI Offense

The third Colorado DWAI offense brings more serious penalties than the previous two, such as:

  • 10 days to 1 year in jail, with 10 days of mandatory jail time.
  • $600-$1500 fine.
  • 48-120 hours of community work.
  • 8 points on your DMV driving record.

Fourth DUI Offense

The fourth DUI or DWAI offense in Colorado is a felony, therefore it threatens with severe penalties. It is important to note that the three offenses prior to the fourth one do not have to be committed all in Colorado. It does not matter where in the US you have committed them. As long as you have three or more DUI/DWAI penalties anywhere in the US, every subsequent offense in Colorado is a felony. The following offenses count:

  • DUI
  • DWAI
  • DUI per se
  • Vehicular homicide and
  • Vehicular assault

They bring the risk of the following penalties:

  • 2-6 years in Colorado prison.
  • $2,000-$50,000 in fines.
  • 3 years mandatory parole.

Colorado DUI/DWAI Penalties for Underage Drivers

Drivers under 21 years of age are under are subject to Colorado “zero tolerance” policy. If they are caught with 0.02% BAC, they will be charged with DUI bringing consequences as follows.


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First Colorado Underage DUI Offense

The first DUI offense of a young driver is only a civil violation leading to:

  • Fine of up to $150
  • 24 hours in community service
  • Driver’s license suspension of 3 months
  • DUI classes
  • Alcohol evaluation assessment
  • 4 points on the Colorado DMV record

Second Colorado Underage DUI Offense

The second offense before turning 21 years is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by:

  • 10-90 days in jail
  • $150-300 in fines
  • 48-120 hours in community service
  • Driver’s license suspension of 6 months
  • DUI classes
  • Alcohol evaluation assessment
  • 4 points on the Colorado DMV record

Third Colorado Underage DUI Offense

The third offense is a misdemeanor as well and brings the same penalties as the second one, which are:

  • 10-90 days in jail
  • $150-300 in fines
  • 48-120 hours in community service
  • Driver’s license suspension of 6 months
  • DUI classes
  • Alcohol evaluation assessment
  • 4 points on the Colorado DMV record

However, expect the third time the judge to be harsher and give you a penalty closer to the upper limits.

 

Colorado DUI/DWAI Penalties for Commercial Drivers

The DUI rules for commercial drivers in Colorado are the same as in any other US state. The allowed BAC level is set at 0.04% and if you are at or above it, you’ll lose your commercial driving license for 1 year in addition to all other penalties, which means that you’ll have to look for another job for that period. 

If your drive hazardous materials, the suspension is 3 years. The second DUI offense, whether you drive hazardous materials or not, means permanent revocation of your CDL.

Colorado DUI/DWAI Penalties for Chemical Test Refusal

Just like in any other US state, refusing a chemical test in Colorado won’t keep you away from penalties and driving license suspension. Instead, your driving license will be suspended for a longer period of time.

If your first chemical test refusal is your first DUI offense as well, you’ll lose your driving license for the next 1 year. If your refusal to submit to the test means second or third Colorado DUI offense, your driving license will be suspended for 2 and 3 years respectively.

 Arrest and Hearing

 Failing the field sobriety test in Colorado will inevitably lead to your arrest. The police officer will handcuff you, read your rights, and have your vehicle impounded.

That means that your driving license will be suspended, no matter if you’re charged criminally or not. Upon receiving the notice for suspension, you have 7 days to request a hearing. To do so, you must go in person at the DMV and submit the request. That will delay the driving license suspension, but it doesn’t mean that it will never happen.
 

How to Reinstate Your Colorado Driving License

Once you serve all your penalties and suspension, you will be eligible to request reinstation of your driving license. Expect the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles to send you a letter explaining all the steps you need to take in order to have your license back.

In any case, you’ll need to go to the DMV and submit the following:

 

Top 20 Cities for DUI Arrests in Colorado

  • Denver
  • Colorado Springs
  • Aurora
  • Fort Collins
  • Lakewood
  • Thornton
  • Arvada
  • Westminster
  • Pueblo
  • Centennial
  • Boulder
  • Highlands Ranch
  • Greeley
  • Longmont
  • Loveland
  • Broomfield
  • Grand Junction
  • Castle Rock
  • Commerce City
  • Parker