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In Denver, it’s possible to be charged with a DWAI, which stands for driving while ability impaired. This occurs when you operate a vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol content) over 0.05% but under 0.08%. 

If you are charged with a first-time DWAI in Denver, it’s a misdemeanor, and the consequences for this include the possibility of two days to 180 days in jail, fines ranging from $200 to $500, eight DMV points, and 24 to 48 hours of community service. A Denver DWAI lawyer from the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC, can further explain subsequent charges and the penalties they bring. 

DWAI-first charges alone won’t result in your license being suspended (this is different from DUI per se charges in Denver). 

Our DWAI law firm can defend your situation if you find yourself in this situation and can provide you with the same quality, professional defense. 

Denver DWAI Defined 

Based on Colorado Revised Statutes, if you drive while your ability is impaired by alcohol or drugs, even in “the slightest degree,” it results in DWAI charges. The state’s DWAI law means you are less able physically or mentally (or both) to operate your vehicle safely. 

Usually, your driving ability is considered impaired in Colorado if your BAC is over .05% but under the legal limit in the state of .08%, which would result in a DUI per se charge.


DWAI charges are considered less serious than DUI charges in Denver (and all of Colorado). DUIs are usually charged if your BAC is a minimum of .08% or more. Typically, DWAI charges are reserved for cases where your BAC is above .05% and under .08%. 

Receiving a first-time DWAI conviction won’t result in your driver’s license being suspended automatically like what happens if you are convicted of a DUI conviction. Also, the community service requirements and fines for a DUI Denver conviction are twice what you receive for a DWAI conviction. 

Proving DWAI in Court 

It’s up to the prosecutor to show you were impaired while driving to get a DWAI conviction. 

Unlike with a Denver DUI, no BAC level makes you guilty of DWAI automatically. There must be actual impairment to prove a DWAI charge. If your BAC was under .08% and your driving wasn’t impaired (in any way), it means you aren’t guilty of DWAI. 

However, if you have a BAC of more than .05% and under .08%, it provides strong evidence that you were driving while impaired. This can be proven by the results of a blood or breath test. 

When you are pulled over, you may be tempted to refuse the chemical test to avoid getting this result. However, it’s important to note that there are serious penalties if you refuse a DUI test in Denver. These penalties include:

  • The automatic suspension of driving privileges in the state
  • Significant fines and potential jail time

In some situations, the prosecution can state that since you refused the test, you were likely guilty of DWAI. 

Potential Penalties for DWAI Conviction in Denver 

The “number” of the offense will include any past convictions for DWAI and DUI in any United States territory or state. The consequences you will face for being convicted of a Colorado DWAI may include the following:

First Offense

  • Two days up to 180 days in jail
  • Fines of $200 up to $500
  • Eight points added to your driving record
  • Between 24 and 48 hours of community service

Second Offense

  • 10-days to one year in jail (for a second offense, 10 days is the minimum mandatory sentence)
  • Fines of $600 to $1,500
  • Eight points added to your driving record
  • Between 48 and 120 hours of community service
  • Two-year driver’s license revocation

Felony DWAI

If you have three or more prior convictions of vehicular assault, DUI, DUI per se, vehicular homicide, or DWAI, then additional DWAI charges are a class 4 felony. 

The potential consequences of a felony DUI conviction in Denver include the following:

  • Two to six years in a Colorado state prison
  • Fines of $2,000 to $500,000
  • Two-year driver’s license suspension
  • Mandatory three years of parole

Fighting DWAI Charges 

We recommended contacting our attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC, as soon as you can after being charged with a DWAI. We have several options for defending you against these charges. While each case is unique and the defense strategy will vary, some common defenses include:

  • The officer had no probable cause to stop you
  • Your BAC was under 0.5% when you were driving
  • You were not arrested properly or lawfully
  • Your driving wasn’t impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • The arresting officer suspected you of DWAI due to your medical marijuana I.D. card
  • The arresting officer did not read you your rights
  • The breath or blood test was not administered based on the regulations in the state

What to Do When Pulled Over by a Law Enforcement Officer

If you are pulled over, and the officer believes that you may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it’s important to know your rights. You should ensure you never provide the officer with any type of “legal leverage” against you. 

Remember, a police officer must have probable cause to stop you. If there is no probable cause, this can be used as part of your defense strategy. 

Your Rights During a Traffic Stop (and if You Are Suspected of Driving While Impaired)

You have rights during any traffic stop. These include:

  • You are not required to tell the officer what you have consumed. This includes drugs, alcohol, medicine, or food. 
  • You don’t have to tell the officer when the last time was that you consumed drugs or alcohol. 
  • You don’t have to tell the officer the last time that you drove if you are sitting in a vehicle when they are talking to you. 
  • You can refuse to take a field sobriety test. 

You Have the Right to Remain Silent 

It can feel scary and awkward not to answer the questions the police ask you. However, the prosecution can use anything you say to prove you are guilty. When the police are asking you questions, stay calm and be polite when you tell them you decline to answer their questions. 

Some additional tips to keep in mind in this situation include:

  • Never admit to using any type or combination of drugs and alcohol, which includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Don’t admit to when you last had a drink, even if it was more than 24 hours ago. 
  • Never provide information to the police that can be used against you. 
  • If you are charged with DWAI, contact the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC, immediately. 

Remember, even if the police are nice and seem conversational, they aren’t on your side. They can also legally lie to you to get you to admit to something. The police are trying to gather information to prove you are guilty. Don’t give it to them by remaining silent. 

Denver DWAI FAQs

What is the difference between a DUI and DWAI in Denver?

The main difference between a DUI and DWAI is your blood alcohol level. DWAI charges apply when your BAC is at least 0.05% but under 0.08%. You are charged with a DUI if your BAC is 0.08 or higher. While both of these crimes carry significant penalties if you are convicted, a DUI conviction is more serious and has more serious consequences. 

A DUI conviction will result in 12 points against your driver’s license, fines of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, license suspension, and community service. After your first offense, the penalties for DUI become even more severe. 

If you are facing DUI charges, you need to have a strong defense and attorney on your side. Our legal team has proven results establishing “reasonable doubt” and poking holes in the evidence presented by the prosecution. An example of this is questioning how accurate the BAC reading was, which can result in a reduced charge (in some situations). 

Is DWAI a criminal charge in Denver?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that DWAI is a criminal charge and can impact your life and future in many ways. Therefore, you should take DWAI charges as seriously as you do DUI charges. Even though the penalties are not as severe as DUI charges, they are still significant. 

You can face legal penalties, which include community service, jail time, and fines. Also, DWAI will go on your criminal record, which may impact many of your rights and future employment. Any type of criminal charge is serious and requires the help of an experienced and reputable attorney. 

Are you required to take a field sobriety test?

If you were stopped because an officer suspected DWAI, you don’t have to consent to any field sobriety test. Until the officer puts you under arrest, you don’t have a legal obligation to provide any information to officers. After being arrested, if you fail to consent to a chemical test, it can result in serious legal penalties. 

The officer must have a reason to place you under arrest. If you don’t provide information to them, it is difficult to justify being arrested. For example, if you are stopped after you consume a single beer, you don’t have to tell the officer what you have consumed, nor do you have to consent to a field test. 

Can you be charged with drunk driving if you are buzzed, not drunk?

In Colorado, it is possible to receive a DWAI charge if you are “buzzed.” A BAC of 0.05% puts you in the range of receiving this. If you are found to have a BAC of .02%, it is a Class A traffic infraction. Remember, there is no safe amount of alcohol to have in your system when you are behind the wheel. 

Don’t Wait to Our Legal Team for Help with Your DWAI Charges 

If you have been charged with DWAI in Denver, contact our legal team at the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC. Our legal team can handle all types of DWAI cases and can help you develop a solid defense and achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Remember, these charges can significantly impact your life if you are convicted. Our legal team will be your advocate in these situations. Contact us today.

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