Colorado DUI & DWAI Laws: Fines & Penalties

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Colorado law enforcement refers to drunk driving offenses as either:

  • DUI (Driving Under the Influence), triggered by .08% or higher BAC, or
  • DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired), triggered by .05% BAC or higher (but less than .08% BAC). 

What are the penalties for a DWAI/DUI in Colorado?

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense


Up to 1 year (DUI), or up to 180 days (DWAI)

Up to 1 year (DUI & DWAI)

Up to 1 year (DUI & DWAI)

Fines and Penalties

Up to $1,000 (DUI), or up to $500 (DWAI)

Up to $1,500 (DUI & DWAI)

Up to $1,500 (DUI), or up to $1,000 (DWAI)

License Suspension

9 months (DUI), none for DWAI

1 year (DUI & DWAI)

2 years (DUI & DWAI)

IID** Required




DWAI With Previous DUI: Jail – 60 Days to 1 Year, Fine – $800 to $1,200, Public Service – 52 to 104 Hours

DUI With Previous DWAI: Jail – 70 Days to 1 Year, Fine – $900 to $1,500, Public Service – 56 to 112 Hours

Lookback Period: There is no lookback period in Colorado. All prior DWAI/DUIs are relevant for sentencing and penalty purposes. 

**Interlock Ignition Device

How much do you have to drink (BAC*) for a DWAI/DUI in Colorado?

Under 21


21 or older

.08% DUI or .05% DWAI

*BAC = blood alcohol content

How many drinks does it take? Check the BAC chart.

What if you refuse to take a chemical test in Colorado?

Colorado has an implied consent law. That means that if you refuse to submit to a chemical test you will be subject to a fine and automatic license suspension. To learn more, see Colorado’s implied consent law.


1st Offense

2d offense

3rd Offense

Refusal to take test

1 year revocation of license

2 year revocation of license

3 year revocation of license

Disclaimer: We try to keep the information provided here up to date. However, laws often change, as do their interpretation and application. Different jurisdictions within a state may enforce the laws in different ways. For that reason, we recommended that you seek the advice of a local attorney familiar with DWAI/DUI cases in your area.

Can you plead to a lesser offense than DWAI/DUI in Colorado?

A defendant might receive a "wet reckless," or a conviction of reckless driving involving alcohol, as a result of a plea bargain in which a charge of drunk driving is reduced to a case of reckless driving. There is no statutory provision on whether a wet reckless plea bargain will be accepted in your state, but it's possible a lawyer may be able to create a plea bargain for you.

New DUI Laws

Colorado modified the amount of time an offender is required to stay in jail for a DUI conviction and now imposes a 10-day minimum jail term for a second offense as well as a 60-day minimum jail sentence for a third and subsequent offenses. Additionally, the law has eliminated the requirement that an offender wear an ankle bracelet leaving only two options: either serve requisite time or apply for a work release program.

Previous Changes to DUI Law in Colorado  

Colorado House Bill 1166 - Repeals and reenacts, with amendments, the statute authorizing the Department of Revenue to revoke a person's driver's license due to the presence of alcohol or drugs in the person's system or the person's refusal to take a test to determine whether there is alcohol or drugs in the person's system.

Colorado - House Bill 1194 - Concerns measures by executive branch agencies to reduce the incidents of drunk driving, provides for extending the length of suspension of driving privileges for certain offenders, requiring certain offenders to use an ignition interlock device, increasing the cost to reinstate a driver's license, and providing for an increase in annual high-visibility drunk driving law enforcement episodes, relates to appropriations for capital construction and expansion of correctional facilities.

Drinking and Driving Laws in Colorado

Drunk driving laws in The State of Colorado are similar to other DUI laws in the United States, however Colorado also has a Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) law that makes it illegal to drive with a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level that is lower than most states. The DWAI law starts at 0.05 percent (BAC) whereas most states start with a 0.8 percent BAC. The Colorado DUI law prohibits a person from driving when they have a concentration of .08 percent or more alcohol in their blood system. This is the standard measurement use by most states for the "impaired" driver.

The first time you are caught driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or above, you are guilty of driving under the influence. The fine for your first DUI is from $300- $1000. You will spend between 5 days to 1 year in jail with mandatory public service from 48 to 96 hours. You will also have your license revoked for 1 year.

How many drinks does it take to reach the legal limit in Colorado? There are many variables that determine if a person has reached the legal limit, however what may make one person legally drunk, isn't always the case with another individual. There are BAC calculators and Alcohol Charts that can serve as a point of reference, but again individual factors such as age, weight and the duration of time that has passed between drinks all play into the equation. There isn't a single formula that works for everyone. On average it takes very little alcohol to become legally drunk and the best answer to drinking and driving is to have zero drinks before you drive.

The State of Colorado Express Consent Law

Colorado's express consent law is similar to laws in other states know as "Implied Consent Laws". The Colorado law means that , as a driver in the State of Colorado you automatically agree to take a chemical test of your breath, urine and blood. If you refuse to take a chemical test your drivers license will be revoked for a period of one year.

In addition if you refuse a chemical test a second time your license will be suspended for 2 years and you will become eligible for an ignition interlock device after 1 year of suspension has passed. A third refusal and your license will be suspended for 3 years and you may request a restricted license with an ignition interlock device after a period of one year.

by: , Attorney

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