Drunk Driving Defense Laws in Colorado

Being arrested for DUI in Colorado (or anywhere) can be expensive and have long-lasting repercussions. A conviction can affect your life regarding employment, relationships and social standing in the community. Being aware of laws regarding driving under the influence and the penalties for doing so can help drivers avoid running afoul of the law.

Law enforcement takes drunk and impaired driving very seriously in Colorado. Annually, 4,000 people suffer serious injuries in crashes involving alcohol and over 240 people lose their lives in completely preventable wrecks on Colorado interstates and roads. State statutes define two tiers of driving offenses regarding impairment:

  • Driving While Ability Is Impaired (DWAI)
  • Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI)

To be arrested for DWAI, a driver only has to have one's ability to operate a vehicle impaired by the “slightest degree” from consuming alcohol, illegal drugs or legally prescribed medications. Blood alcohol concentrations of .05 will result in this charge.

Drivers face DUI charges with a BAC of .08 or higher or if they are deemed to be “substantially incapable” of driving after drinking alcohol or take prescription or illegal drugs.

Those drivers caught behind the wheel with a BAC level of .17 or greater are designated as a Persistent Drunk Driver -– even on a first offense –- and face the same sentences and strict penalties as those who rack up more than one DUI conviction.

Financial Repercussions

A publication issued by the Colorado Department of Transportation details the financial and other costs associated with a DUI arrest and conviction. It should be noted that the below list details those costs for a first DUI. Second and subsequent violations would have much higher costs and more stringent penalties attached.

  • Alcohol detox in facility -- $455
  • Fees for chemical testing –- range from $30 -- $150, with an average cost of $90
  • Vehicle towing charge -- $143
  • Court costs -- $26
  • Impound fees (per day) -– range from $27 -- $50, with average of $39
  • Jail fees -- $10 - $50, average of $30
  • Bail or bond fee -- $150
  • Criminal defense attorney retainer -– varies, averages $2,500
  • Alcohol treatment evaluation -- $200
  • Alcohol education classes -– range from $150 - $1,000, averages $575
  • Court fines -– range from $600 - $1,000, average fine $800
  • Victim Assistance fund -- $78
  • Victim Impact Panel -- $25
  • Victim Compensation fund -- $33
  • Law Enforcement Assistance fund -- $90
  • Brain Injury Fund fee -- $15
  • Probation supervision fee -- $600 (can be as high as $1,200)
  • Rental of ignition interlock device -– ranges from $480-$1,460, averages $970
  • Driver’s license reinstatement fee -- $95
  • Community service supervision fee -- $60
  • License retesting fee -- $21
  • Persistent Drunk Driver surcharge fee –- ranges from $50 - $500, average $275
  • Increase in auto insurance fees (estimated for drivers 21 - 24 over five years) -- $3,000

While by no means all-inclusive, the above costs total $10,270. There are far better ways to spend your hard-earned money.

Legal Repercussions

Those facing a first DWAI conviction in Colorado are subject the following possible penalties:

  • Jail sentence of between two and 180 days
  • Community service of 24 – 48 hours
  • Fines ranging from $200 - $500

First offense DUI convictions can rack up:

  • Jail sentence ranging from five days to one year
  • Driver’s license suspension for nine months
  • Fines ranging from $600 - $1,000
  • Community service of 48 - 96 hours

A Colorado law passed in 2015 makes a fourth DUI a Class 4 felony that can send the offender to prison for up to six years. The law doesn’t require a judge to impose jail time, however.

Any subsequent convictions incur higher fines and longer jail terms and other penalties. If you are arrested for an alcohol-related offense while driving in Colorado, you may fare better in court by retaining a criminal defense attorney who routinely handles such cases and is intimately familiar with the state’s DUI laws.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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