Colorado DUI Penalties for Drivers Without Prior Convictions

Denver traffic attorneys, and Colorado traffic lawyers generally, handle a myriad of different types of traffic matters. One of the more common, and among the most serious, are individuals charged in Colorado with the criminal violation of Driving Under the Influence “DUI” or Driving While Ability is Impaired “DWAI.”

In 2010 the Colorado legislature substantially changed the criminal penalties for Driving Under the Influence “DUI” and Driving While Ability Impaired “DWAI.” These changes, effective as of July 1, 2010, do not alter the penalties mandated by Colorado traffic laws which are imposed by the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) related to license suspensions, and the DMV mandated use of alcohol interlock devices, but do change the sentencing scheme to be imposed by a court for those criminally convicted of DUI or DWAI, among other offenses. The new penalties, applicable in Denver and throughout the State of Colorado, continue to impose multiple potential sanctions, but provide for a greater likelihood that a term of jail will be imposed, especially for those who had high Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and those who are second and third time offenders.

PENALTIES FOR A FIRST TIME CONVICTION FOR DUI

For those individuals who are convicted under Colorado traffic laws of Driving Under the Influence “DUI,” in the Denver metropolitan area, or other areas of Colorado, and who have no previous applicable convictions, as previous applicable convictions are defined in Colorado statutes, Colorado traffic law provides some penalties which must be, and some of which may be, imposed by the judge.

In addition to other penalties, first time offenders with no previous convictions whose blood alcohol content “BAC” was measured to be under 0.20 may be sentenced to between five (5) days and one (1) year in the county jail. However, Denver traffic attorneys, and Colorado traffic lawyers generally, are well aware that in sentencing a first time offender, whose blood alcohol content is determined to have been under 0.20, the judge has the discretion to suspend a sentence to jail if the defendant completes the requirements set forth in C.R.S. § 42-4-1301.3. and any additional sentencing and probation requirements imposed by the Judge.

C.R.S. § 42-4-1301.3 provides that for jail to be potentially suspended an individual must, in addition to any other requirements:
(A) Receive a presentence alcohol and drug evaluation;
(B) Based on that evaluation, satisfactorily complete an appropriate level I or level II alcohol and drug driving safety education or treatment program; and
(C) Abstain from the use of alcohol for a period of one year from the date of sentencing. Such abstinence is to 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. This does not mean that an individual must simply abstain from using alcohol prior to driving, but rather, that the individual must abstain from any use of alcohol whatsoever for the stated period.

The Colorado statute is complex in defining who qualifies, and who does not qualify, as a first time offender. A first time offender is an individual who has no previous convictions in Colorado, or equivalent prior convictions in any other state or any area subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, for DUI, DUI per se, DWAI, habitual user, vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, aggravated driving with a revoked license, or for most convictions in which that person drove while their license was under restraint.

In addition to any other the penalties, a first time offender convicted of D.U.I. is to be fined at least six hundred dollars, but not more than one thousand dollars, in addition to the requirement for the offender to pay mandated surcharges and court costs. Also, the individual is to be required to perform at least forty-eight hours, but no more than ninety-six hours, of useful public service. The individual may be sentenced to other requirements imposed by the Judge, such as, for instance, to attend and pay the fee to attend a victim impact panel. A judge can also, in addition to similar penalties often imposed by the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), independently require an individual to utilize an ignition interlock device as a condition of bond, probation and participation in work-release programs.

A record of conviction, together with twelve (12) penalty points, are also placed on that individual’s Colorado traffic record upon conviction for DUI. The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles will most often impose additional penalties, related to the individual’s privilege to drive a vehicle, subsequent to a person being charged with DUI.
If the offender does not satisfactorily comply with the conditions of the suspension of the jail sentence, the sentence may be reimposed, and the offender may be required to spend that portion of such offender’s sentence that was suspended in the county jail. Although C.R.S. § 42-4-1301.3 contemplates a one year period for completion of requirements listed therein, the Court has the discretion to impose a period of probation that shall not exceed two years.

In the event that a first time offender’s Blood Alcohol Content “BAC” is determined to have been 0.20 or more within two hours of that person having driven a motor vehicle in Colorado, the Court is required to impose a sentence of at least ten days but not more than one year in the county jail, in addition to a penalty which includes fines, surcharges and court costs, between forty-eight and ninety-six hours of useful public service and other sanctions and conditions as permitted by law for the Judge to impose. The suspension of a jail sentence, in accordance with C.R.S. § 42-4-1301.3, is not available if the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is determined to have been at 0.20 or greater.

A record of conviction, together with twelve (12) penalty points, are also placed on an individual’s Colorado traffic record upon conviction for DUI. The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles will most often impose additional penalties, related to the individual’s privilege to drive a vehicle, subsequent to a person being charged with DUI.

FIRST TIME CONVICTION FOR DWAI

In the event an offender is convicted or pleads guilty in the Denver metropolitan area, or other areas of Colorado, to the criminal violation of Driving While Ability Impaired “DWAI” and this is the individual’s first time offense, as defined in Colorado statutes, the penalties can often be somewhat less severe than being convicted of DUI. For those individuals with no previous applicable convictions, as previous convictions are defined in Colorado traffic law, who are convicted of Driving While Ability Impaired “DWAI” the relevant Colorado traffic law statute provides criminal penalties which must be, and some which may be, imposed by the judge.

In addition to other penalties, a first time offender, as defined in the statute, whose blood alcohol was measured to be under 0.20, may be sentenced by the judge to between two days and one hundred eighty days in the county jail. However, Denver traffic lawyers and Colorado traffic attorneys generally are well aware that in sentencing a first time criminal offender, whose blood alcohol content is determined to have been under 0.20, the judge has the discretion to suspend a sentence to jail if the defendant completes the requirements set forth in C.R.S. § 42-4-1301.3. and any additional sentencing and probation requirements.

C.R.S. § 42-4-1301.3 provides that for jail to be potentially suspended an individual must, in addition to any other requirements;
(A) Receive a presentence alcohol and drug evaluation;
(B) Based on that evaluation, satisfactorily complete an appropriate level I or level II alcohol and drug driving safety education or treatment program; and
(C) Abstain from the use of alcohol for a period of one year from the date of sentencing. Such abstinence is to 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. This does not mean that an individual must simply abstain from using alcohol prior to driving, but rather, that the individual must simply abstain from any use of alcohol whatsoever for the stated period.

The Colorado statute is complex in defining who qualifies, and who does not qualify, as a first time offender. A first time DWAI offender is an individual who has no previous convictions in Colorado, or equivalent prior convictions in any other state or any area subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, for DUI, DUI per se, DWAI, habitual user, vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, aggravated driving with a revoked license, or for many convictions in which that person drove while their license was under restraint.

In addition to any other the penalties, a first time offender convicted of DWAI is to be fined at least two hundred dollars, but not more than five hundred dollars, in addition to the requirement for the offender to pay mandated surcharges and court costs. Also, the individual is to be required to perform at least twenty-four hours, but no more than forty-eight hours, of useful public service. The individual may be sentenced under Colorado traffic law to other requirements imposed by the Judge, such as, for instance, to attend and pay the fee to attend a victim impact panel. A judge can also, in addition to similar penalties often imposed by the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), independently require an individual to utilize an ignition interlock device as a condition of bond, probation and participation in work-release programs.

If the offender does not satisfactorily comply with the conditions of the suspension of the jail sentence, the sentence may be reimposed, and the offender may be required to spend that portion of such offender’s sentence that was suspended in the county jail. Although C.R.S. 42-4-1301.3 contemplates a one year period for completion of requirements listed therein, the Court has the discretion to impose a period of probation that shall not exceed two years.

In the event that a first time offender’s Blood Alcohol Content “BAC” is determined to have been 0.20 or more within two hours of that person having driven a motor vehicle in Colorado, the Court is required to impose a sentence of at least ten days, but not more than one year in the county jail, in addition a penalty which includes fines, court costs, between forty-eight and ninety-six hours of useful public service and other probation conditions as permitted by law. The suspension of a jail sentence, in accordance with C.R.S. 42-4-1301.3, is not available if the Blood Alcohol Content is determined to have been at 0.20 or greater.

A record of conviction, together with eight (8) penalty points, are also placed on an individual’s Colorado traffic record upon conviction for DWAI. The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles will often impose additional penalties, related to the individual’s privilege to drive a vehicle, subsequent to a person being charged or convicted of an alcohol related driving offense.

Denver traffic attorneys, and Colorado traffic lawyers generally, are well aware that the criminal laws applicable to alcohol related driving violations are complex and multi-faceted. However, individuals have a multitude of rights in defending against DUI and DWAI charges brought against them in Colorado. Individuals who are charged with such a violation in Colorado are well-advised to seek competent legal counsel to represent them. Ross Koplin represents individuals in all Colorado traffic matters in the City and County of Denver, and in the Colorado counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Douglas, El Paso, Clear Creek, Weld, Larimer, Elbert, Summit and Eagle.

Legal Disclaimer – The information contained at this web site is not intended to be legal advice and all information regarding Colorado criminal law is general content only and should not be relied upon for any specific Colorado criminal law situation. Information on this web site is not intended to be comprehensive and does not cover all the issues, nuances or ramifications related to the topic discussed. This web site may not be updated routinely to reflect the very most current Colorado law.

Individuals should consult an experienced Colorado criminal or traffic lawyer for advice regarding an individual situation.

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