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In Colorado, there are two tiers of driving under the influence, and which tier you fall into depends on your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level. A BAC is a determination of how much alcohol a person has in his or her system based on a chemical vapor test that assesses alcohol on the breath of the test subject. There are legal limits of BAC under which you are permitted to operate a motor vehicle, and exceeding those limits means that you are legally considered unable to operate a motor vehicle.

  • Driving under the influence (DUI). DUI is defined by a 0.08% or higher BAC. A first offense will result in a 9 month license suspension while a second and third offense will result in a 1 year, and 2 year suspension, respectively. Jail time for a first offense can be up to 1 year in jail and up to a year for any subsequent offense. The fine for a first offense is up to $1,000, and up to $1,500 for any subsequent offense. Additionally, for second and subsequent offenses, the installation of an interlock ignition device is required.
  • Driving while ability impaired (DWAI). DWAI is defined by a 0.05% or higher BAC, but less than 0.08%. Although a first offense will not result in a license suspension, a second and third offense will result in a 1 year, and 2 year suspension, respectively. Jail time for a first offense can be up to 180 days in jail and up to a year for any subsequent offense. The fine for a first offense is up to $500, and up to $1,500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for any subsequent offense.
  • Underaged driving under the influence. Underaged drivers have their own legal limit of 0.02% BAC.

Penalties are a little different when the types of charges are mixed up across sequential offenses. For instance, getting a DUI after an earlier DWAI carries a jail sentence of 70 days to a year, and a fine of $900-$1,500 and a public service obligation fo 56-112 hours. A DWAI after a DUI carries a jail sentence of 60 days to a year, and a fine of $800-$1,200 and a public service obligation fo 54-104 hours.

Colorado is An Express Consent State

Colorado is considered an Express Consent state, also sometimes referred to as a implied consent state, meaning that by engaging in the act of driving on the roadways and highways within the state of Colorado, you implicitly consent to chemical testing in the event that a law enforcement officer has reason to believe that you are driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Chemical Test Refusal. You have the right to refuse to submit to chemical testing, even though Colorado is an implied consent state. However, there are consequences. Refusal to submit to testing for a first offense will result in a license revocation for a period of one year. Refusal of testing for a second offense will result in a 2 year revocation, and refusal for a third offense will result in a 3 year revocation.

Colorado DUI Process

Many individuals who become involved in a DUI in Colorado have never been involved in a DUI, or any other run in with the law before, and have no idea what will happen to them. They are unfamiliar with the process and are often scared, nervous or anxious at the prospect of facing DUI charges. DUI process in Colorado, as a general rule proceeds as follows, but please be advised that some of the below steps can be skipped in certain circumstances.


After being pulled over or stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence, and administered a chemical test to determine a driver’s BAC, the police officer will either make an arrest, or issues a DUI citation, as the officer has the discretion to decide which to do. In either case, the driver is facing DUI charges. The main difference is that in an arrest, the officer will take you in for booking, will have your vehicle towed, you may be placed in detox, and a bond will need to be posted in order for you to leave jail. When the officer issues a DUI citation, the officer lets someone who is sober to come get you instead of booking you into jail.

Express Consent Hearings

If you submitted to or refused chemical breath testing, you will need to schedule an administrative express consent hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles within seven days of your arrest in order to protect your driving abilities in Colorado. An express consent hearing is separate and apart from the criminal DUI charges pending against you.

Arraignment Hearing, Pre-trial Conferences and Motions

At the time of the DUI/DWAI, the arresting officer will provide you with a Summons and Complaint that details the time and date of your mandatory court appearance. If you do not attend, a warrant will be issued for your arrest and your license will be suspended. At your arraignment, which is the first court appearance you will make for your criminal DUI/DWAI charges, a judge will inform you of the charges against you and the penalties that you could face. Sometimes, if you hire a Colorado DUI lawyer, this court appearance can be avoided.
Before your actual trial, a few steps can be taken in your case to speed up the process. First, there are pre-trial conferences to attend. Pre-trial conferences are meetings between you, your lawyer and the district attorney to discuss the case, discovery requirements and plea negotiations. There can be several pre-trial conferences. Next, your Colorado DUI lawyer should present any pre-trial motions on legal issues that are relevant to your case, such as whether certain evidence should be suppressed or the case should be dismissed.

Trial By Jury

Next, your case will go before a jury. The district attorney will present its case against you, and your Colorado DUI lawyer will present your defense. Witnesses will be called and evidence will be presented. The jury will be asked to make a verdict about your charges. The jury will deliberate and make a determination. Alternatively, you may enter a plea, which means that you admit to certain charges in exchange for more lenient consequences.


When your fate has been decided, you will go to a sentencing hearing where your punishment will be given to you. This will include how much jail time and/or community service you must do, and how much you will be fined. It will also be decided whether you are eligible for in-home detention, work release, weekend jail time, and whether you will be required to enroll in a treatment program.

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