To avoid a DWAI or a DUI in Colorado, you should know at least these five things.
I. DUI in Colorado
IV. Sobriety Tests
V. Avoid Arrest
I. DUI in Colorado
It’s illegal to drive under the influence. It’s called DUI in Colorado. That’s driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher It’s also illegal to drive while ability is impaired (DWAI). That’s driving with a BAC of 0.05% or more. For drivers under age 21, including adults 18 through 20, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.02%
The law for drivers under 21 is called zero tolerance. But that doesn’t prohibit driving with some alcohol in the body. Colorado permits the BAC to be under 0.02% for a very good reason. It wants to reduce the possibility of convicting innocent young drivers.
The logic is this. First, “breathalyzers” or alcohol breath testers aren’t reliable. They don’t really measure it. (That requires analyzing a sample of actual blood.) Instead, they only estimate BAC.
Another reason is that everyone of every age produces alcohol naturally in their bodies. And they do so 24/7. Obviously, that includes all young drivers. A third reason is that many medications and foods contain alcohol. Even baked products such as bread do.
So not insisting on zero BAC is sound public policy.
The exact penalties imposed for DUI in Colorado vary. Many factors cause these differences. They include such things as
- Driver’s Age.
- Type of license.
- Estimated BAC.
- The impairing substance(s)
- Any prior DWIs.
- Consequences of the DUI, if any (property damage, injuries, etc.)
- Any minors in the vehicle.
- Skill of driver’s attorney.
- Characteristics of driver (demeanor in court, race, socio-economic status, etc.)
- Beliefs and personality of judge hearing the case. That’s just the luck of the draw.
Nevertheless, Colorado provides good guidelines.
Driver Age 21 or Older
The penalty for a first DWAI offense is up to 180 days of imprisonment. Eight points are added to the driving record. The fine is $200 to $500. There’s up to 48 hours of community service.
For a first DUI conviction, the penalty is up to one year imprisonment. The driving license suspension is for nine months. There’s a required alcohol education course. The fine is $600 to $1,000. And there’s up to 96 hours of community service.
Driver Under 21
If a driver under 21 has a DWAI or DUI, the penalty is a license suspension for three months. In addition, four points are added to the driving record.
Penalties increase greatly for repeated offenses. Depending on the circumstances and the judge, some offenders have to have ignition interlock devices on their vehicles. These prevent the engine from starting if there’s alcohol on the driver’s breath. Learn more about ignition interlock devices.
Also, drivers under 21 convicted for having alcohol in their vehicle have their licenses revoked. They need not have consumed any aalcohol to be penalized.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Body?
III. The Costs
Getting charged with a DWAI or a DUI in Colorado is very expensive. It is elsewhere. And this is true even if you’re innocent. Of course, it’s even more expensive if a judge or jury convicts you.
The cost of a legal DWAI or DUI defense is very hard to estimate. That’s because the complexity of cases varies widely. And more complex cases take more of a lawyer’s time. That means more money.
It’s wise to select an experienced lawyer who specializes in DWAI and DUI defense. The knowledge and experience of such a lawyer is invaluable. In fact, such a lawyer may take less time.
Its obvious that simply asking lawyers how much they charge per hour isn’t helpful. It’s like asking a builder how much it costs to build a house.
There are a number of other costs. They may include fines, court costs, property damage, medical expenses, possible loss of employment, increased insurance rates, and other expenses. The total can be high. It can easily be more than lawyer fees and expenses. Therefore, the total cost of an DWAI or DUI can easily be tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition, there are non-money costs as well. They may include pain and suffering, feelings of guilt, embarrassment, driving license suspension, loss of friendships, and many others.
Knowing the high costs of a DWAI or DUI is very useful. It’s a great motivation. That can help us try to avoid getting one.
IV. Sobriety Tests
All states require drivers to submit to alcohol breath tests (estimators). That, in spite of their scientifically proven unreliability.
However, all drivers have a Constitutional right to decline taking a chemical BAC test. In spite of that, the state punishes those who use their right. The first time a driver uses the right, the state revokes the license for one year. It punishes a second use with a two-year revocation. And if a driver uses the Constitutional right a third time, the state punishes the driver with a license revocation for three years.
Field Sobriety Tests
However, no state requires drivers to take a field sobriety test. And that’s good. Simply put, field sobriety tests lack validity. That’s why about one-third of completely sober people with a 0.00% BAC fail them. And they do so under ideal conditions.
Naturally, taking a field sobriety test on an uneven highway shoulder after being pulled over by police and being very nervous is far from ideal. So the “real world” failure rate for completely sober people must be much higher.
Understandably, lawyers strongly urge drivers never to submit to any field sobriety test. On the other hand, police want suspects to take them. They often falsely insist the law requires it. It doesn’t. Or they say that passing it proves you’re innocent. It doesn’t.
An officer who pulls over a driver for suspected drinking and driving is conducting a criminal investigation. The officer may legally lie to you. Remember that if you are a suspect in a crime, the police officer is your adversary.
Discover much more about field sobriety tests. You won’t like what you learn. But knowledge is power. Also, learn What to Do If You Are Pulled Over.
V. Avoid Arrest
Obviously, one way to avoid a DWAI or DUI is by abstaining from alcohol. Another choice is to use a Designated Driver or use public transportation.
Most drivers enjoy drinking alcohol, at least on occasion. They may lack a Designated Driver or access to public transportation. And they may be unable to afford Uber or Lynks.
So how can drivers drink before driving, yet avoid arrest? The answer is simple and legal. Maintain a low BAC.
These guidelines can help keep a low BAC.
- Remember that standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits have equivalent amounts of pure alcohol.
- Have no more than one standard drink each hour. Preferably less.
- Avoid non-standard drinks. This makes it easier to keep track of alcohol intake.
- Eat and snack while drinking. This is very important!
- Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones.
- Accept an alcoholic drink only when it fits your consumption schedule.
- Never engage in any drinking game.
- Don’t try to “keep up” with the drinking of others.
Arrested for DWAI or DUI in Colorado?
This website strongly opposes impaired driving. But it also supports the U.S. Constitution and the rights it grants both the innocent and the guilty.
If you’re charged with a DWAI or DUI in Colorado, contact a lawyer immediately. The attorney should specialize in drinking and driving cases. Better yet is one whose practice is limited to such cases.
The Colorado Bar (lawyer) Association offers a free lawyer referral service. Also, Martingale-Hubbell offers a free on-line database with lawyers by specialty and geographic location. In addition, it provides free client and peer evaluations.
Don’t rely on this or any other site for legal information.
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Keech, C. & Fairchild, C. Dude, What are My Rights? Kansas City, MO: Keechild, 2014.
Lauterjung, L. DUI law for Drivers. How to Avoid DUI Arrests and How to Handle a DUI Stop. Lauterjung, 2012.
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NHTSA. Drunk Driving. Washington: 2018. (website)
Sagsletter, R. Rights During a Police Stop / DUI in the United States. What Officers Can and Cannot Do. Denver, CO: Outskirts, 2012.