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Your Denver DUI Case: The Basics

If you or someone you know has been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both in the "Mile High City," you're probably looking for legal advice. No matter if you were pulled over on your way to Coors Field, near the Denver Mountain Parks, or cruising by the stately Victorian houses of Five Points, the laws are all the same in Denver County and throughout all of Colorado. Here are some things to know if you've been arrested and charged with a DUI/DWAI.

Denver DUI or DWAI Charges

You can be charged with a Denver DUI in two ways: DUI or DWAI. DUI stands for "driving under the influence." DWAI stands for "driving while ability impaired."

A DUI means you were driving a vehicle after having consumed alcohol or drugs, or a combination, which makes you substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation your car. You can be found guilty of DUI in Colorado even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is less than 0.08. The fact that your blood or breath alcohol content is 0.08 or more gives rise to what is called a rebuttable presumption that you were under the influence of alcohol. However, you can also be in violation of the law if your driving and/or field sobriety tests show you are mentally or physically impaired.

A DWAI means you were driving a vehicle after having consumed alcohol or drugs, or a combination, and it affected you so that you're less able than an ordinary person to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of your vehicle. Your BAC can range from .05 to .07 at the time you were driving.

Denver DUIs/DWAIs are a Two-Part Process

Most people don't realize that when they are arrested for a DUI/DWAI in the District, they'll have to deal with two historically unpopular government agencies: the Colorado Department of Revenue/DMV and the Denver criminal courts. Why? Because the DMV will handle your license suspension pursuant to the implied consent laws and the courts will deal with your criminal case.

DUI Arrest

Let's talk about how you got here in the first place. You were probably pulled over and it's a safe bet one of these ladies or gentleman in blue evaluated you: the Denver Police, the Denver Sheriff, or the Colorado State Patrol.

After falling over (or at least not walking a straight line) on a few field sobriety tests, the cops probably took you to the Denver County Jail where you were booked, fingerprinted, given a choice of a blood or breath test, and then left to sit in a jail cell while you sobered up.

Refusing the Chemical Test

Check out Colorado Revised Statute 42-2-126. If you don't take a blood or breath test, your license will be automatically taken away for one year. If this is your second refusal, you'll lose your driving privileges for two years. If this is your third time, it's a charm. Say goodbye to your license for three years.

Potential DUI/DWAI Penalties

The courts impose criminal penalties including the following:

  • Fines;
  • Jail time; and/or
  • Public service.

The DMV imposes administrative penalties including:

  • Suspension or Revocation of your license.

Here's a look at some of the criminal penalties. Remember, as a general rule, the higher your BAC is, the more severe the penalties will be. Multiple convictions will also result in harsher penalties. Also, DUIs are pretty darn expensive. Get out your checkbook.

1st DWAI

  • 2 days - 180 days Jail
  • $200 - $500 Fine
  • 24 hours - 48 hours Public Service

1st DUI

  • 5 days - 1 year Jail
  • $600 - $1,000 Fine
  • 48 hours - 96 hours Public Service

DWAI or DUI with one previous DWAI or DUI

  • 10 days - 1 year Jail
  • $600 - $1,500 Fine
  • 48 hours - 120 hours Public Service

DWAI or DUI with two or more previous DWAI or DUI

  • 60 days - 1 year Jail
  • $60 - $1,500 Fine
  • 48 hours - 120 hours Public Service

Other penalties

In addition to the fines already listed, you may also have to pay penalty surcharges of up to $500 to help pay for programs to address persistent drunk drivers, and another $200 for alcohol treatment evaluation, as well as surcharges to benefit crime victims. You also might have to complete education, therapy or a combination of both.

Ignition Interlock Device

What's this about an ignition interlock device? In some situations, the court may order you to install this little contraption in any car you own or operate. It is designed to make sure you aren't drinking alcohol and driving. Anytime you attempt to start your car, you must blow into it. Here's a useful guide to ignition interlock devices (PDF).

DUI Under 21 Years

Attention young Denver drivers. Thinking about drinking and driving? Bad move. Colorado has zero tolerance for that nonsense. It's known as an "Underage Drinking and Driving Offense" (UDD) and applies to those who have BAC of .02 but less than .05. If your is .05 or higher you'll finally get to be treated like an adult, but for all the wrong reasons. You'll receive the same administrative and criminal penalties as an adult driver.

Will a DUI conviction go on my driving record?

Absolutely. A DUI conviction will go on your Denver driving and criminal record. You may be able to get a conviction expunged from your criminal record after a period of time.

Remember, it's best to never drink or use drugs and drive. Select a designated driver ahead of time who will stay sober. If you're impaired and don't have a designated driver, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation. If you do find yourself facing a DUI/DWAI, you may want to contact a criminal defense lawyer or the public defender's office to obtain information and/or assistance specific to your case.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex DUI situations usually require a lawyer
  • DUI defense attorneys can challenge Breathalyzer/Intoxilyzer or blood test results
  • A lawyer can seek to reduce or eliminate DUI penalties
  • A lawyer can help get your license back

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