If you are facing driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI) charges in Colorado, you need a legal professional who can protect your legal rights and fight for your freedom. You need to consult with a criminal defense attorney who understands the law and can help you identify the possible defenses to DUI or DWAI charges in your unique case.
What is the Difference Between DUI and DWAI Charges in Colorado?
Many drivers in Colorado do not understand the difference between DUI and DWAI charges. The criminal charge depends on the alcohol concentration in your blood. The biggest difference between the two charges is that you can be charged with DUI when your blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds .08%, while DWAI charges are triggered when your BAC is higher than .05% but lower than .08%.
Under Colorado’s drunk driving laws, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC level of at least .08%. In Colorado, law enforcement officers have sufficient grounds to arrest a driver if their ability to operate a vehicle is even slightly impaired by alcohol or drugs.
What Are the Penalties for DUI and DWAI Charges in Colorado?
While a first-time offense of driving under the influence and driving while ability impaired is a misdemeanor in Colorado, DUI is associated with harsher penalties. In Colorado, a first-time DUI offender can face:
- Up to 12 months in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to 96 hours of community service
- A suspension of a driver’s license for up to 9 months
In Colorado, a driver whose BAC level exceeds .15% can be designated as a persistent drunk driver (PDD). PDDs are sentenced as repeat DUI offenders, even if this is their first offense.
Penalties for DWAI charges include:
- Up to 180 days in jail and no more than $500 in fines for a first offense.
- Up to 1 year in jail, up to $1,500 in fines, a suspension of a driver’s license for a year, and mandatory Interlock Ignition Device for a second offense.
- Up to 1 year in jail, up to $1,500 in fines, a suspension of a driver’s license for two years, and mandatory Interlock Ignition Device for a third offense.
- For three or more previous DWAI or DUI charges, a repeat offender can be charged with Class 4 felony and face up to 6 years in prison and three years of parole.
Unlike many other states, Colorado has no washout or lookback period for DUIs and DWAIs. In other words, your previous DUIs and DWAIs will count for the purposes of sentencing no matter how many years have passed.
Possible DUI/DWAI Defenses in Colorado
Just because you were charged with a DUI or DWAI in Colorado does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted. With a Denver DUI defense attorney on your side, you can fight a charge with one of the following defense strategies:
- Unlawful stop. In Colorado, police officers are not allowed to stop drivers unless there is probable cause. In other words, it is illegal for law enforcement officers to pull you over if you did not violate a law. If you were charged with DUI or DWAI in Denver or other parts of Colorado after an unlawful stop, your case would be dismissed.
- Illegal DUI/DWAI checkpoints. Law enforcement officers must comply with strict rules when it comes to setting up DUI/DWAI checkpoints or roadblocks. You could contest the validity of the DUI or DWAI arrest if the arresting police officer failed to adhere to the applicable rules when setting up the sobriety checkpoint.
- Inaccurate field sobriety test. The validity of a field sobriety test can be contested by an experienced criminal defense attorney, especially if you are disabled, older than 65, overweight or obese, injured, or have a medical condition.
- Improper breathalyzer test. The result of a breathalyzer test can be dismissed in your DUI or DWAI case if the arresting police officer failed to administer the test correctly or the equipment was improperly calibrated.
- Inaccurate blood test. A skilled DUI defense attorney can cast doubt on the accuracy of the blood test, especially if the blood sample was not collected, stored, handled, or stored correctly.
- Medical condition. In many DUI/DWAI cases, physical and behavioral attributes become grounds for an arrest. Certain signs of impairment, including bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, can be symptoms of a medical condition or use of prescription medication.
You should consult with a DUI/DWAI defense lawyer in Colorado to identify the most appropriate defense strategy in your particular case. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you get your DUI or DWAI charge reduced or even dismiss your case altogether.