Colorado is unique in that it recognizes two different criminal charges for drunk driving. The first and better-known criminal offense is Driving Under the Influence, or DUI. But Colorado also identifies a second, less-serious drunk driving offense called Driving While Ability Impaired, or DWAI. Even though the penalties for this second charge are somewhat less severe, it is still a serious crime with significant penalties. There are key differences between DWAI vs. DUI that will change the severity of the case.
Nationwide, including in Colorado, a driver can be charged with DUI if they operate a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC, of .08% or greater.
But in Colorado, a driver can be charged with DWAI if a police officer believes the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and their ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired, even to the slightest degree.
It does not take much to be considered impaired. To place a person under arrest, the police officer must believe that the amount of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both “…affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.”
While people charged with DWAI often have a BAC between .05% and .079%, there is no per se limit like there is with a DUI charge, and the decision to charge a driver with DWAI is largely left to the officer’s discretion.
A first-offense DWAI and DUI are both classified as misdemeanors.
Under CRS 42-4-1307, the penalties for a first-time drunk driving conviction are as follows:
If you have previously been convicted of DWAI and are later charged with a DUI, you will be punished as if you had two DUIs. The same is true if you have one DWAI and are accused of a second DWAI.
If you have been charged with DWAI or DUI in Colorado, you need an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer on your side. Denver DUI defense lawyer Kevin Cahill has been defending people accused of drunk driving in Colorado since 2005. He understands the complex and highly technical nature of DUI and DWAI defense and uses his skill and expertise to defend against Colorado drunk driving charges.
Whether you were charged with a DUI or a DWAI, there are technical legal and scientific issues related to the reliability of the equipment used to test your BAC, the admissibility of those results, whether the stop was justified, whether the police officer had probable cause to believe you were under the influence, and how the BAC and Field Sobriety Tests were administered. All of these issues can go to the admissibility of the evidence, and having even some of that evidence excluded can pave the way for negotiations that lead to a significant reduction in charges or even outright dismissal of the case.
Denver DUI defense lawyer Kevin Cahill has earned a reputation for successfully defending clients accused of DWAI or DUI. He will independently investigate the circumstances of your arrest and mount a thorough and vigorous defense that will maximize the likelihood of a successful resolution. But if a trial is necessary, Attorney Cahill has the skills and experience necessary to handle even the most complex and technical DUI defense.
Attorney Cahill is based in Denver and regularly works with attorneys, law enforcement officials, and judges in courtrooms across the State of Colorado. He has developed an extensive network of relationships that he will use to help ensure you obtain the best outcome in your case.
Mr. Cahill believes that every single person deserves the best defense they can get. He will listen carefully to the specifics of your situation, offer an honest opinion about how you can best defend yourself, and begin preparing a vigorous defense.
To learn more, contact Kevin Cahill today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how he can help.