Colorado DUI & DWAI Laws: Fines & Penalties

Learn about the penalties for a DUI / DWAI conviction in Colorado.

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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

Jail

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

No

Yes

Yes

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

.02%

21 or older

.08% DUI or .05% DWAI

*BAC = blood alcohol content

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

You may want to try our BAC Calculator, however I wouldn't let any results encourage you to drink and drive.

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.

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.

Is a DWAI in Colorado a Criminal Charge?

Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) refers to a charge when the driver's judgment or physical control is impaired due to drugs and/or alcohol even though the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) is less than.08% (a DUI). A DWAI is commonly charged when your BAC is between .05 and .08. Although the penalties associated with a DWAI are not as stringent as the penalties associated with a DWI, it is a criminal (misdemeanor) charge and the penalties may include fines and incaraceration. In addition, there may be license suspension and eight points added to your driving record. It will also count against you for subsequent offenses to worsen your penalties. 

When you are charged with a first DWAI, you may be sent to jail for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 180 days. You may have to pay fines that range from $200 to $500. You may need to do 24 to 48 hours of community service. You can lose your license and your DWAI charges can show up on your criminal record. You may also face additional requirements like drug or alcohol counseling.  Your attorney can assist you in deciding whether to try to plea bargain the charges down or whether you may have grounds for fighting the charges. 

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.

Can an attorney in Colorado get a DUI dismissed?

It's possible that a DUI attorney in Colorado can enter a plea agreement for a defendant. For example, 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 in Colorado 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. A lawyer may be able to assist in advising you on how to plea whether it is for a DUI (Driving Under the Influence), triggered by .08% or higher BAC, or a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired), triggered by .05% BAC or higher (but less than .08% BAC). In addition, a lawyer's assistance may prove helpful considering that Colorado contains no lookback period -- that is, any prior alcohol related driving arrest counts as a prior no matter when it happened.

by: , Attorney

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