The Colorado DUI Guide

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I just got arrested for a Colorado DUI / DWAI charge.  What happens now?


ISSUE ONE:  The Colorado Express Consent Proceeding:  Your Colorado driver license (or your right to drive in Colorado if you're not a Colorado licensed driver) was most likely revoked for anywhere from nine months to three years for failing or refusing a breath test.  Read all of your paperwork carefully


If you have received a notice of revocation issued by a law enforcement officer you have seven days to go to a driver's license (DMV) office to request a hearing (commonly called a DMV Hearing).  [If you took and failed a blood test, you will be notified of a suspension by mail at a later time.]  If your Colorado driver's license was not seized at the time of your arrest it must be surrendered when you request you appeal in order for you to receive a temporary driving permit.  A hearing will be held within 60 days of your request, and your temporary driving permit will be good at least through your hearing date.


Keep in mind that the express consent revocation is separate from the Colorado DUI / DWAI charge (see below).  [Note:  In most states, the term "express consent" is referred to as "implied consent."]



ISSUE TWO:  The Colorado DUI / DWAI Criminal Case:  Separate from the express consent suspension is the criminal charge for DUI (driving under the influence) or DWAI (driving while ability impaired). 


DUI.  In Colorado, it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of alcohol or drug(s), or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, to drive any vehicle.  A person is "under the influence" if alcohol and / or drugs affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.  If a person's BAC is 0.08 percent or above, there is a permissible inference that the person is under the influence of alcohol. 


Per Se DUI.  It is also unlawful for any person to drive any vehicle in this state when the person's BAC is 0.08 percent or more at the time of driving or within two hours after driving.


DWAI.  It is also unlawful for any person who is impaired by alcohol or by one or more drugs, or by a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, to drive any vehicle in this state.  Driving while ability impaired means driving a vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol, drug(s), or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, which alcohol alone, or one or more drugs alone, or alcohol combined with one or more drugs, affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.  Colorado DWAI charges are most often seen with a BAC of 0.05 percent to just under 0.08 percent.


Important:  The express consent and the criminal case are completely separate from one another. 


Will my Colorado driver license be revoked / suspended?


RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE:  Your Colorado driver's license (or your right to drive in Colorado if you do not have a valid Colorado license) may be revoked in the express consent proceeding for failing or for refusing a chemical test.  Again, you may challenge this administrative revocation by requesting a hearing within seven days of your arrest.  Requesting the hearing / appeal will not necessarily overturn the revocation; rather, it merely provides with a chance to overturn the revocation.



RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE:  If you are convicted of the DUI or DWAI charge, you will also lose your license (or your right to drive in Colorado if you don't have a valid Colorado license) for a substantial time.  This revocation is separate and distinct from the express consent proceeding.  Talk to your Colorado DUI / DWAI lawyer for possible suspension and revocation lengths for your situation.



Also keep in mind that your license can be suspended or revoked for a variety of reasons unrelated to a Colorado DUI arrest e.g. excessive tickets, drug offense, etc.


What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended / revoked / under restraint?


Colorado uses the term "driving under restraint" (DUR).  Driving while your license is under restraint should be avoided as it is a new crime. 


First Offense.  Under Colorado law, a person who drives a motor vehicle or off-highway vehicle upon any highway of this state with knowledge that the person's license or privilege to drive, either as a resident or nonresident, is restrained because of a conviction of DUI, DUI per se, DWAI, habitual user, or UDD, or is restrained in another state solely or partially because of an alcohol-related driving offense is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than thirty days nor more than one year and, in the discretion of the court, by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars.  A first driving under restraint conviction will result in an additional one year period before you're eligible for reinstatement / a new license.


Second Offense.  Upon a second or subsequent conviction for driving under restraint, the person shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than ninety days nor more than two years and, in the discretion of the court, by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars nor more than three thousand dollars.  A second driving under restraint conviction will result in an additional four year period before you're eligible for reinstatement / a new license.


I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a restricted / occupational / conditional / probationary permit?


Possibly.  Colorado law on probationary licenses changed on January 1, 2009.  Talk to an experienced Colorado DUI lawyer about whether you will be able to lawfully drive during the period of your revocation.


What is the difference between a DUI, DWAI, DWI, OWI, DWAI, OUI, OUIL, etc.?


The difference between the terms DUI and DWAI are set forth above.  Most other states' statutes just refer to one offense such as DUI or DWI or OWI.  These terms are just acronyms that refer to the offense commonly known as "drunk driving."  Virtually every state prohibits driving a motor vehicle while your BAC is 0.08 or higher. 


Note:  Colorado sometimes uses the phrase "driving while impaired" for DWAI and "driving with excessive alcoholic content" for a Per Se DUI.


Are DWAI's and DUI's in Colorado misdemeanor or felony charges?


In Colorado, both DWAI's and DUI's are, by themselves, misdemeanor crimes.  However, if a person is DUI and drives in a reckless manner and causes serious bodily injury to another, this constitutes the felony offense of Vehicular Assault.  If a person commits a DUI or a DWAI and, at the time, is also a "habitual offender," this constitutes the felony offense of Aggravated Driving After Revocation.


What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of a Colorado DWAI / DUI charge?


Upon conviction of an Colorado DUI / DWAI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including alcohol / drug evaluation and an education and treatment program.  A range of penalties is set forth below.  Note:  Jail time will generally be on the low end of the range absent bad facts in your case. 



First DWAI
(no prior offenses)
  • 2 -180 days jail (see ¶ 1 below);
  • $200 - $500 fine;
  • 24 - 48 hours of public service;
  • Additional surcharges and a victims panel class.
First DUI
(no prior offenses)
  • 5 -365 days jail (see ¶ 1 below);
  • $600 - $1000 fine;
  • 48 - 96 hours of public service;
  • Additional surcharges and a victims panel class.
Second DWAI
(with one prior DWAI conviction)
  • 45 -365 days jail (court may suspend up to 40 days if . . . see ¶ 2 below);
  • $600 - $1000 fine;
  • 48 - 96 hours of public service;
  • Additional surcharges and a victims panel class.
Second DUI
(with one prior DUI conviction
no priors but a BAC of 0.20 percent or greater)
  • 90 -365 days jail (court may suspend up to 80 days if . . . see ¶ 2 below);
  • $900 - $1500 fine;
  • 60 - 120 hours of public service;
  • Additional surcharges and a victims panel class.
(with prior DUI conviction)
  • 60 -365 days jail (court may suspend up to 54 days if . . . see ¶ 2 below);
  • $800 - $1200 fine;
  • 52 - 104 hours of public service;
(with prior DWAI conviction)
  • 70 -365 days jail (court may suspend up to 63 days if . . . see ¶ 2 below);
  • $1000 - $5000 fine;
  • 56 - 112 hours of public service;
  • Additional surcharges and a victims panel class.
  1. The court may suspend the mandatory minimum of any sentence of imprisonment if, as a condition thereof, the offender has a pre-sentence or post-sentence alcohol and drug evaluation and satisfactorily completes and meets all financial obligations of a level I or level II program as is determined appropriate by the required alcohol and drug.

  2. If the defendant (A) Receives a presentence alcohol and drug evaluation; AND (B) Based on that evaluation, satisfactorily completes an appropriate level I or level II alcohol and drug driving safety education or treatment program; AND (C) Abstains from the use of alcohol for a period of one year from the date of sentencing. Such abstinence shall be monitored by the treatment facility by the administration of disulfiram or by any other means that the director of the treatment facility deems appropriate.

Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain / negotiate my Colorado DUI charge down to another (lesser) offense?

Possibly.  Plea bargaining and charge reduction are two areas that any experienced Colorado DUI lawyer would discuss with the prosecutor on the client's behalf. 

Will an Colorado DWAI / DUI go on "my driving record?"

Yes.  A DUI and a DWAI conviction will go on your Colorado driving record.  For a DUI conviction, 12 points are assessed; for a DWAI conviction, 8 points are assessed.

Just how much jail time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DUI or DWAI in Colorado?

The amount of incarceration received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

•  your prior driving record especially your DUI / DWAI / Vehicular Assault history (including any DUI charges outside of the State of Colorado);

•  your level of intoxication / BAC (a high BAC can generate greater penalties, especially a BAC of 0.20 or greater);

•  whether there was an collision involved;

•  whether there was injury to another person in the collision;

•  which Colorado county or court your case is in;

•  what judge you are sentenced by;

•  whether there was a passenger / child in your car;

•  whether the judge feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.


What is a SCRAM device?


A Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) device is an ankle bracelet that periodically measures a person's BAC through perspiration (trans-dermal).  Courts are increasingly ordering the wearing of the devices as a condition of electronic monitoring and / or probation. 


I am licensed to drive in a state other than Colorado and I was cited for a DUI in Colorado.  Will my driver license be suspended / revoked?

Colorado only has the authority to revoke your right to drive in the State of Colorado.  However, Colorado and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  Colorado will report a DUI conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the Compact).  Your home state will then generally take action to suspend your license.

This also works in reverse.  If you are a Colorado licensed driver and you are convicted of a DUI charge in another state, Colorado will revoke your license if it learns of the conviction. 

If you get a DWAI in Colorado, the answer is not as clear.  Many states do not have a DWAI offense, so you may not face a license suspension / revocation in your home state.

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?


An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition.  In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration.  If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the interlock device, the motor vehicle will not start.


Under new legislation, you will likely have to install an ignition interlock device in your car. Talk to your Colorado DUI lawyer about whether this requirement applies to your situation.


What happens if I was on probation when I got arrested for my Colorado DUI / DWAI offense?

Committing a new offense while you're on probation for a previous crime creates two problems.  First, you face the new DWAI / DUI charge.  Second, you face a probation violation hearing for failing to obey all laws (a standard condition of probation).  The most serious scenario is when you receive a new Colorado DWAI / DUI offense when you're already on probation for a previous DUI.  When this happens, its important to speak to a Colorado DUI lawyer as soon as possible.

I'm not a United States citizen.  Will a Colorado DUI / DWAI conviction result in my removal from this country?

Probably not.  A typical, run of the mill Colorado DUI / DWAI is not considered crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies resulting in removal.  It is important to consult an experienced immigration lawyer about your situation just as you should consult with an experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyer about your pending DUI charge. 

Keep two points in mind.  First, it is very important to answer honestly all questions about prior arrests / convictions on immigration and Visa applications and forms.  Lying on these forms is often considered more serious than any DUI conviction.  Second, non-citizens must take extra care not to drive on a suspended or revoked license.

What will an Colorado DUI or Colorado DWAI do to my insurability?

If your insurance company finds out about your DWAI / DUI one of two things are likely to happen.  Either your Colorado insurer will raise your rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed.  Your insurance company will absolutely learn of your arrest if you have to file an SR-22.

What is an SR-22?

If your Colorado driver’s license is revoked for a DUI related event, you must file an SR-22 to get your license reinstated.  An SR-22 is a guarantee by your insurance company that the company will affirmatively notify the Motor vehicles division if your liability insurance is terminated or lapses for any reason.  The SR-22 is filed with the Colorado Motor Vehicles Division.  If you change insurance companies, you must obtain a new SR-22 before your old SR-22 lapses or your license will be suspended.

Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get a Colorado DUI or DWAI?


Yes.  The FAA has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Colorado DUI / DWAI convictions and express consent suspensions.  Learn more here.

I missed my Colorado court appearance.  What do I do now?

Failing to appear (FTA) for court is to be avoided.  When you miss a court appearance, bad things follow.  At a minimum, the Colorado court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (known as a bench warrant).  If you posted bail, the bail will be forfeited as well.  Talk to a Colorado lawyer as soon as possible.  Often, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled.

Can I represent myself in court on my Colorado DWAI / DUI and / or other criminal charge?

Yes.  You have a constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal charge no matter how serious including a Colorado DUI charge.  Keep in mind that Colorado DUI criminal defense is a complex area of the law as shown by the information above.  If you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer, you definitely should apply for a court appointed attorney to represent you.  You have no right to court appointed counsel at the express consent license proceeding.  Learn more about representing yourself here.

Websites, including, provide general Colorado DUI information but do not provide legal advice or create a lawyer / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Colorado Drunk Driving attorneys for advice about any specific problem or DUI charge that you have.  Colorado attorneys are governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way. 


Colorado DUI lawyers provide drunk driving (DUI) and criminal defense assistance to the communities of:  Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Lakewood, Fort Collins, Arvada, Pueblo, Westminster, Boulder, and Thorton and Denver County, El Paso County, Larimer County, Pueblo County, Boulder County, Jefferson County, Adams County.  Colorado DUI attorneys may accept Visa, Master Card, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, credit cards. 


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