Your Colorado Springs DUI Case: The Basics

It's Monday night. Time for your weekly mystery literature club meeting. You didn't finish the James Patterson novel, but booze generally takes precedence over books with this group of feisty ladies -- especially those binge drinking 85-year-old twins, Ethel and Violet. After a few stiff martinis and several slices of Lizzie's blackberry cobbler, you realize it's time to get home to the kids. You begin the drive back on East Colorado Avenue. Things are fine until you realize you're are driving on the wrong side of the road.

The Colorado Springs Police pull you over. Now you're in a whole lot of trouble. This is your second DWI in the past five years. Are you going to lose your license forever? Do you need a lawyer, again? Here's some general information about Colorado Springs DWAI/DUI cases.

DUIs Are a Two-Part Process

Many people don't realize that when they are arrested for a DWAI/DUI in the Springs, they'll be dealing with two systems: the Colorado Department of Revenue/DMV and the Colorado Springs criminal courts system. Why? Because the DMV will handle your license suspension pursuant to the implied consent laws and the courts will deal with your criminal case.

What Crimes Can I Be Charged with in Colorado Springs?

In Colorado Springs, there are two main ways drivers are charged with being impaired by drugs or alcohol -- DWAI or DUI. What's the difference?

DWAI stands for "driving while ability impaired." DUI stands for "driving under the influence."

What Do Those Mean?

A DWAI means a you were driving a vehicle after having consumed alcohol or drugs, or a combination, and it affected you so that you weren't able exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of your vehicle. Your blood alcohol content (BAC) can range from a .05-.07 at the time you were driving.

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 a rebuttable presumption that you were under the influence of alcohol, but you can also be in violation of the law if field sobriety tests show you were driving while mentally or physically impaired.

What Are the Possible Penalties Associated with a DUI/DWAI Conviction?

The length of a sentence largely depends on a defendant's BAC and any prior DWAI/DUI convictions on their record in the past ten years. The criminal courts impose criminal penalties, including fines, jail time, and possible public service. The DMV imposes administrative penalties meaning license suspension or revocation.

Here's a look at some of the criminal penalties. Remember, multiple convictions will result in bigger penalties including extended jail time and higher fines.

1st DWAI

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

1st DUI

  • 5 days - 1 year Jail
  • $600 - $1000 Fine
  • 48 hours - 96 hours Public Service

DWAI or DUI with one previous DWAI or DUI

  • 10 days - 1 year Jail
  • $600 - $1500 Fine
  • 48 hours - 120 hours Public Service

DWAI or DUI with two or more previous DWAI or DUI

  • 60 days - 1 year Jail
  • $60 - $1500 Fine
  • 48 hours - 120 hours Public Service

Are There Any Other Penalties to Be Concerned About?

Yes, indeed. Violators 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. Offenders may also might have to complete education, therapy or a combination of both.

Will a DWAI/DUI Conviction Go on My Driving Record?

It sure will. A DWAI/DUI conviction will go on your Colorado driving and criminal record. You may be able to get the conviction expunged from your criminal record after a period of time.

Is it Possible to Refuse to Take the Chemical Test?

If someone refuses to take a blood or breath test after a valid stop, their license will be automatically taken away for one year. After a second refusal, they'll lose their driving privileges for two years. After a third time, they can say goodbye to their license for three years.

What's an Ignition Interlock Device?

In some situations, the court may order offenders to install this device in any car they own or operate. It is designed to make sure the driver has not been drinking alcohol before driving. Anytime they attempt to start the car, they must blow into it. Here's a useful guide to ignition interlock devices (PDF).

What If I'm Caught Drinking and Driving and I'm under 21?

Things are about to get real for you, young whippersnapper.

Colorado has zero tolerance for any drinking and driving. It's known as "Underage Drinking and Driving Offense" (UDD) and applies to anyone under 21 with who have BAC of .02 but less than .05.

If your BAC is .05 or higher you may receive the same administrative and criminal penalties as an adult driver.

A Final Word

Remember, it's best to never drink or use drugs and drive. Pick a designated driver ahead of time who will stay sober. If you're impaired and don't have a designated driver, fork over the cash for a cab. You can also call a sober friend or family member or use public transportation. In the end, remember all of these options are cheaper than a DWAI/DUAI.

If you do find yourself facing a DUI/DWAI, you may wish to consider contacting a DUI lawyer or the public defender's office for information specific to your circumstances.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.