First DUI/DWAI Offense in Colorado

The administrative and criminal penalties for a first DUI and DWAI in Colorado.

In Colorado, motorists are prohibited from driving a vehicle:

  • while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs (called “DUI”)
  • while their abilities are impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs (called “DWAI”), and
  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more (called “DUI per se”).

Under the influence. For purposes of Colorado’s DUI law, a person is considered “under the influence” when substantially incapable mentally and/or physically “to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.” A BAC of .08% or more within a reasonable time of when the defendant was driving gives rise to a presumption that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol.

Ability impaired. For purposes of Colorado’s DWAI law, “ability impaired” means the person is affected to the slightest degree so that the person is less able mentally and/or physically “to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.” A defendant is presumed to be DWAI if a chemical test shows a BAC of more than .05% but less than .08%.

DUI per se. “DUI per se” means that the person’s BAC was .08% or more at the time of driving or within two hours after driving.

Administrative Penalties

License revocation. Under Colorado’s implied consent law, a driver is deemed to have given consent to a chemical test if there’s probable cause to believe the person is driving a motor vehicle in violation of the state’s DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI laws. The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will revoke the license of any driver who has a BAC of .08% or more or refuses to take a chemical test.

If a driver’s BAC is .08% or more and it’s the person’s first violation, the revocation is for nine months. However, an offender can apply for a restricted license after one month of the revocation period has passed. However, motorists who refuse to take a chemical test on a first violation face a one-year suspension and are eligible for a restricted license after two months. Before the restricted license will be issued, the driver must complete alcohol/drug education and a treatment program.

Ignition interlock devices. Colorado requires ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for all first offenders and as a condition for holding a restricted license. For a BAC of .08% or more, the IID must be installed in all vehicles registered in the offender’s name for at least eight months. But the offender is eligible for a license without the IID restriction after four months if there have been no violations. Drivers with a BAC of .15% or more or who refused a test must have an IID for two years after reinstatement.

Criminal Penalties

First-time convictions for DUI, DUI per se, and DWAI are misdemeanors. However, the penalties imposed for DWAI convictions are generally less severe than those for a DUI or DUI per se.

Penalties for First DUI and DUI Per Se Convictions

Jail. DUI and DUI per se convictions carry a minimum sentence of five days in jail and a maximum sentence of up to one year. The mandatory five days in jail can be suspended if the offender undergoes an alcohol and drug evaluation and successfully completes the treatment program. However, if the defendant’s BAC was .20% or more, the minimum jail sentence is ten days.

Fines and fees. The fine for a first DUI or DUI per se conviction is generally $600 to $1,000, plus court costs and surcharges.

Public service. A person who’s convicted of DUI or DUI per se for the first time must complete a minimum of 48 to 96 hours of public service and pay a $120 fee.

License revocation. If the defendant’s license wasn’t administratively revoked as discussed above, the court will generally impose a nine-month revocation upon a first conviction of DUI or DUI per se. However, if the defendant is convicted of driving under the influence of a controlled substance, there’s a one-year license revocation.

Penalties for First DWAI Convictions

Jail. A first DWAI conviction carries two to 180 days in jail, but the court can suspend the two-day minimum if the offender completes a substance abuse evaluation and treatment. If, however, the defendant’s BAC was .20% or more, the minimum jail time is ten days.

Fines and fees. The fine for a first DWAI conviction is normally $200 to $500, plus court costs and surcharges.

Public service. A person who’s convicted of DWAI for the first time must complete a minimum of 24 to 48 hours of public service and pay a $120 fee.

License suspension. There’s no license revocation imposed as the result of a first DWAI conviction.

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