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Colorado has some of the most complicated and harsh DUI laws in the nation. It’s natural to have a series of questions running through your head during both pre-trial and trial. What are the penalties for a DUI? Will I lose my license immediately? Is there any way to retain my license despite my DUI charges? These questions and multitude of others have probably made rounds in your mind and it’s time you find some answers.

If you or someone you know has been charged with DUI, DWAI or any other alcohol-related offense in the Denver area, it’s within your best interest to contact an experienced defense lawyer. While you may find answers to some of your seething questions in this article, only an attorney can provide detailed insight into your case. Plus, their knowledge of Colorado courtroom procedures will prove valuable when you’re reviewing your legal options.

Denver Drunk Driving Attorney, CO

Have you been accused or arrested of DUI or DWAI? Get started on your defense as soon as possible with Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C.. Matthew Martin has over 28 years of experience defending his clients from various accusations including DUI and working as a prosecutor. He can assess the details of the case, collect compelling evidence, determine unlawful actions made by law enforcement, bring on experts and eye-witness testimony, and do whatever possible to contest your DUI or DWAI.

Call (303) 725-0017 to set up your first consultation with Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. as soon as possible. Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. is located in Denver, but also represents clients from other counties including Arapahoe County, Boulder County, Broomfield County, Adams County, Jefferson County, and Douglas County.

Information Center:

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What Constitutes as a DUI in Colorado?

The state of Colorado has three categories technically for drinking and driving. According to Colorado law, you’re guilty of DUI if you are driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. There is also DWAI, which is driving while ability is impaired by alcohol or drugs. DWAI charges tend to be lighter than DUI because the driver is only slightly inebriated, but still not safe to operate a vehicle.

The last type of DUI under Colorado law is DUI per se. An officer can arrest someone of DUI per se if they meet the DUI legal limit in Colorado. The person does not need to show extreme signs of intoxication or any other evidence of inebriation. The officer is only arresting them based on the fact they surpassed the legal limit.

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What is the DUI Limit in Colorado?

In Colorado, the DUI legal limit is when a person’s blood alcohol concentration hits a certain percentage the state considers to be intoxication. Colorado is similar to the rest of the country as it’s legal limit is .08 %. Meaning drivers who are at .08 % or above will automatically be charged with a DUI per se.

Colorado will enhance the sentencing for DUI if the BAC is exceedingly high at .17 % or above. This is also known as an aggravated DUI. Minors have a different legal limit due to zero tolerance laws and cannot have a blood alcohol concentration level of .02 – .05 %. Commercial drivers also have a lower legal limit of .04 % and could lose their license for being over that.

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Is DUI a Misdemeanor in Colorado?

Generally speaking, most cases of DUI will result in a misdemeanor. A first-time DUI is automatically a misdemeanor with specific sentencing conditions listed by the statute. A first-time DUI could result in up to 1 year in jail with a minimum of 5 days. However, most first-time offenders will not be sentenced to spend time in jail.

A second DUI is also a misdemeanor, but with harsher penalties. You’ll instead have a minimum of 10 days in jail if convicted and this time the judge may not be so keen to let you avoid it. If it’s your third DUI, you will still face a misdemeanor. However, you’re more than likely going to have to face the full mandatory minimum which is 60 days in jail.

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What Are the Penalties for DUI in Colorado?

A first-time DUI will result in the following penalties upon conviction:

  • Between 5 days to 1 year in jail
  • A fine of $600 to $1,000
  • 48 to 96 hours of community service
  • A 9-month license suspension.

If it’s your second DUI offense, you’ll face the following sentencing guidelines:

  • 10 days to 12 months in jail
  • A fine of $600 to $1,500
  • 48 to 120 hours of community service
  • A 12-month license suspension
  • A requirement to install the ignition interlock device for two years.

A third time DUI conviction will also result in a misdemeanor punishable by:

  • 60 days to 1 year in jail
  • A fine of $600 in $1,500
  • 48 to 120 hours of community service
  • 24-month license suspension
  • a requirement to install the ignition interlock device for two years.

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What is a Felony DUI in Colorado?

When a DUI is classified as a felony, the penalties are incredibly serious. A fourth or subsequent DUI is a class 4 felony, punishable by:

  • Up to 6 years in prison with a minimum of two years
  • A court fine of up to $500,000
  • License suspension for up to 2 years
  • Ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle
  • Being labeled as a persistent drunk driver (PDD) by the DMV
  • Complete alcohol or drug treatment courses court ordered by the judge

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What is a DWAI in Colorado?

Similar to DUI, a DWAI charge is when a person has been found guilty of driving impaired by drugs or alcohol to the “slightest degree.” The crime only involves very minimal drug or alcohol use, but the offender is arrested because they are still too inebriated to drive a vehicle safely. DWAI charges have a lower limit of .05%, which is a stark difference to the .08 % standard.

Often officers will arrest someone on DWAI when there is little to no evidence of inebriation. It’s a way to obtain an arrest/conviction without accusing someone of outward DUI. Although the penalties are lesser than DUI, they are still very serious.

The penalties for a first DWAI include:

  • 2 to 180 days in jail
  • Fines for $200 to $500
  • 24 to 48 hours of community service;
  • 8 DMV points

The penalties for a second DWAI include:

  • 10 days to 1 year in jail
  • Fines of $600 t0 $1,500
  • 48 to 120 hours of community service
  • 8 DMV points

The penalties for a third DWAI include:

  • 60 days to 12 months in jail
  • Fines of $600 to $1,500
  • 48 to 120 hours of community service
  • 8 DMV points.

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How Long Does DUI Stay on Your Insurance?

While the statutory penalties of DUI are serious, there are other collateral consequences that could haunt you for even longer. In Colorado, a DUI is likely to raise your insurance by an average of $601. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this until the DUI is off your driving record.

In Colorado, a DUI will remain your driving record for 10 years. You’ll have 8 points added to your record and the points will also remain for at least 2 years.

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Do You Always Lose Your License After a DUI?

Yes, you will lose your license if you are charged with DUI or DUI refusal. The suspension will depend on if you were arrested for a refusal, failing a BAC test, or were given a blood test. If you refused testing or failed a BAC test, then your license will be automatically confiscated by law enforcement. Once you’re free from detainment you will be given a document called an Express Consent Affidavit and Notice of Revocation. You will have to then report to the DMV within 7 days of receiving that document to contest your license suspension.

If officers had you take a blood test, you’ll be given a letter in the mail titled an “Order of Revocation” if the results were at or above .08%. You will have ten days to surrender the license and request a hearing to contest the suspension. Failure to do so will result in you automatically losing your license.

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How to Avoid License Suspension After DUI?

The best way to avoid a license suspension is to contest it by requesting a DMV hearing. The hearing will be governed by an administrative law judge or DMV hearing officer. There you and your attorney can present evidence as to why you weren’t intoxicated, and the suspension isn’t necessary. It is an administrative hearing, not a criminal one.

There your attorney will have the rare chance to cross-examine the arresting officer if they appear. This is a scarce opportunity you should seize even if you don’t think you can win the hearing. Your attorney can then use this free deposition of sorts to build your DUI defense case.

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Do You Have to Take a Breathalyzer Test?

According to express consent laws, you do but that doesn’t mean you can’t refuse BAC testing. Express consent laws are basically the state saying you agree to implicitly submit to DUI testing if asked by an officer. While these laws are in effect, violating them will result in only an administrative penalty. You cannot be charged with DUI for refusing the test, but the officer may arrest you stating the refusal is enough probable cause of guilt.

So, you can refuse to take a breathalyzer test. It will, however, result in either administrative or criminal penalties. In some cases, both. Whether you should take one will depend on your own situation and if the steep penalties of refusal are worth it.

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What Happens If You Refuse a Blood Alcohol Test?

Listed below are the penalties for refusing a Colorado DUI chemical test.

  • An automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license
  • Designation as a “persistent drunk driver” (PDD) by the Colorado DMV
  • Mandatory alcohol and drug education courses
  • Installation of a ignition interlock device for at least one year following the restoration of your driving privileges
  • Carry SR-22 even if you are not convicted of DUI

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Can I Get a DUI Expunged in Colorado?

The only way to expunge a DUI is to never actually be convicted of the offense. The only way a DUI charge and arrest can be expunged is if:

  • There were no charges filed
  • The charges were filed and later dismissed
  • You were acquitted of all charges
  • Ten years have passed, and no new charges have been filed against you

You can then file a petition with the court to expunge your charges. If the judge decides you meet the criteria for expungement, they will delete the record of your arrest/charge permanently from your criminal record.

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Additional Resources

Express Consent Laws in Colorado | CO DMV – Visit the official website of the Colorado Department of Revenue to learn more about express consent laws. Access the site to read up on the penalties if you refuse testing, the length of restraint, and if you’re eligible for a restrictive license after suspension.

Colorado’s Drunk Driving Statute | CRS– Visit the official website for the Colorado General Assembly to read up on the legislation in regard to DUI, DWAI, express consent, and any other alcohol and driving related provision. Access the site to learn about express laws, what happens if you refuse a BAC test, the elements of DUI and DWAI and other information.

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DUI & DWAI Defense Lawyer in Denver, CO

If you or someone you love has been arrested for DUI or DWAI, look no further than Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C.. Attorney Matthew Martin has spent over two decades as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. He can utilize his prior knowledge and practice to build an effective defense for your charges. To learn more about his practice, call Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. today.

You can contact Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. at (303) 725-0017 to set up your first consultation free of charge.