Maryland. Maine. New Jersey. Pennsylvania. Colorado.
As of today, these are the five states—along with the District of Columbia—without felony DUI laws for convictions.
But for Colorado, this may be about to change. Colorado legislature recently passed a bill that would make habitual drunk driving a felony in our state. The bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk, and he is expected to sign the bill within the coming weeks.
Once Governor Hickenlooper signs the bill, the penalties for driving while drunk or intoxicated in Colorado will get much harsher. Under the new law, a fourth DUI would be a felony punishable by a heavy fine and up to six years in prison.
Penalties for Your First Three Offenses
Of course, under current Colorado law, you don’t have to be convicted of a DUI on four separate occasions to face severe penalties.
The consequences for one intoxicated driving offense alone may involve incarceration and fines—even if your blood alcohol content is less than .08.
How could this happen? In Colorado, there are two levels of intoxicated driving offenses—driving while under the influence (DUI) and driving while ability impaired (DWAI). Colorado law defines a DUI as the operation of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than .08 percent. Alternatively, a DWAI involves operation of a motor vehicle with a BAC of .05 percent or higher, but less than .08 percent.
In Colorado, DUI and DWAI are penalized similarly. One major difference between the two types of criminal convictions is that a DUI may result in license revocation, while a DWAI usually will not.
Below, we’ve outlined some of the standard penalties for DUIs and DWAIs under current Colorado law:
First offense. If you are found guilty of your first DUI or DWAI, you may be penalized with up to one year in prison for a DUI, or up to 180 days for a DWAI. In addition, you may be fined up to $1,000 for a DUI or up to $500 for a DWAI. In the case of a DUI, you may also lose your license for 9 months.
Second offense. For both a second DUI and DWAI offense, you may face up to one year in jail and fines of up to $1,500. You may also lose your license for one year.
Third offense. Under current Colorado law, if you are convicted of a third DUI or DWAI, you may be jailed for up to one year. For a DUI, you may also be fined up to $1,500, while for a DWAI, you may be fined up to $1,000. In both cases, your license may be suspended for a year.
A DWAI with a previous DUI. If you are convicted of a DWAI with a DUI on your record, you may be imprisoned for up to one year, and fined up to $1,200. You may also be required to perform up to 104 hours of public service.
DUI with previous DWAI. Similarly, if you are convicted of a DUI after being convicted of a DWAI in the past, you may face up to one year in jail, up to $1,500 in fines, and up to 112 hours of public service.
In addition, you may also face severe penalties if you refuse to submit to a chemical test. Colorado enforces an express consent law, meaning anyone who operates a motor vehicle in our state automatically grants permission to be administered a chemical BAC test. These tests measure your blood alcohol content via breath, blood, or urine. If you refuse to comply with a test after a law enforcement officer informs you that you are under suspicion of drunk driving, you may have your license revoked for one year after your first offense, two years after your second, and three years after your third.
All DUI Charges Require a Tough Defense
Whether it is your first or fourth DUI, you need an aggressive defense if you want to avoid severe penalties to your freedom, finances, and personal life. Colorado law penalizes both first-time and repeat offenders with incarceration and steep fines, and it is likely that these penalties will only become hasher once the new felony law passes. How can you avoid these strict penalties? The only certain way to avoid harsh legal consequences is to abstain from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol entirely.
However, if you have already been arrested for intoxicated driving or charged with a DUI, you should get in touch with a skilled Colorado DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you understand the DUI or DWAI charges you are facing, and build a powerful intoxicated driving defense to have these charges reduced or dropped.