Underage DUI in Colorado

The consequences of operating a vehicle while intoxicated for a person under 21 years of age.

Subject to a few exceptions, consumption and possession of alcohol by a person under 21 years of age is illegal in Colorado. A person under the age of 21 who operates a vehicle while intoxicated can be charged with a class A traffic infraction for a first offense and a class 2 traffic misdemeanor for a second or subsequent offense.

This article discusses the laws and consequences associated with a DUI offense committed in Colorado by a person who’s under 21 years old.

How Impaired Driving is Defined

Under Colorado’s impaired driving laws, all drivers are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle:

  • while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both (known as “DUI”)
  • while “ability impaired” by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both (referred to as (“DWAI”), or
  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more (called “DUI per se”).

However, Colorado has even stricter laws against underage drinking and driving (sometimes called “UDD”). UDD is Colorado’s version of a “zero tolerance” law for underage motorists. Colorado defines UDD as driving a motor vehicle with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .05%. And, of course, the UDD law applies only to motorists who are under the age of 21.

Administrative Penalties for UDD Offenders

Generally, the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will administratively revoke the license of any driver who is arrested for UDD and fails a breath test. Under Colorado’s implied consent law, a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08% (get an estimate of how many drinks it takes) is considered a failed test for a driver under 21 years old.

The license revocation periods for UDD offenses are as follows:

  • First offense. For a first violation, the license revocation is for three months.
  • Second offense. The revocation is for six months for a second violation.
  • Third or subsequent offense. One year is the revocation for a third or subsequent violation.

However, so long as the BAC was not more than .05%, the underage driver can request a 30-day revocation, to be followed by a two-month suspension. During the suspension period, the driver can obtain a probationary license. A probationary license can be used to drive for purposes of employment, education, health, or alcohol and drug education or treatment.

Criminal Penalties for UDD

For a first offense, it’s a class A traffic infraction for a person under 21 years of age to drive a motor vehicle with a BAC of at least .02% but not more than .05%. A second or subsequent UDD offense is a class 2 traffic misdemeanor.

Fines and fees. The fine for a first UDD conviction is $100, plus court costs and surcharges. The fine for a second or subsequent UUD conviction is $150 to $300, plus court costs and surcharges.

Jail. There is no jail time for a first UDD conviction. However, for a second or subsequent UDD conviction, 10 to 90 days jail time is possible.

Public service. A defendant who is convicted of UDD can be required to perform up to 24 hours of public service. Any person required to complete public service must pay a fee of up to $120.

License revocation. If the defendant’s license wasn’t administratively revoked as discussed above, the court will generally impose a three-month revocation upon a first UDD conviction. For a second conviction, the revocation is for six months, and for a third or subsequent conviction, the revocation is for one year.

On a first conviction, an underage driver can request a 30-day revocation, which, if granted, will be followed by a two-month suspension. During the suspension, the motorist can get a probationary license for driving to and from employment, education, health, and alcohol and drug education or treatment. Before granting a probationary license, the judge may require the defendant to enroll in a program for driving education or alcohol and drug education and treatment.

Alcohol/drug evaluation and treatment. UDD offenders are generally required to complete and pay for an alcohol evaluation, an education program, and/or a treatment program.

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