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DUI In Colorado

What you Have To Know About DUI In Colorado

If you’ve been charged with a Colorado drunk driving offense it can be one of the scariest moments of your life. I get calls every day from people want to know what to expect after they received DUI charges in Colorado. I have handled thousands of DUI cases both as a former prosecutor at the Colorado Springs District Attorney’s Office (Colorado’s Fourth Judicial District), and as a DUI defense attorney. From this experience, I can tell you that every case is unique, but there are some main ideas of things you need to know to that will help you understand the process and what to expect.

First, you need to know that it typically won’t be over quickly, and it won’t be cheap. DUIs can carry hefty fines and court costs, lengthy probation sentences, loss of license and even jail time. Hiring an experienced Colorado DUI defense attorney can make a BIG difference in your case and save you from making costly mistakes that I will discuss below.

 

Am I going to jail for a DUI?
The short answer is: maybe. Jail is a possible penalty in every DUI and DWAI case in Colorado. In certain circumstances jail is mandatory. For the purposes of this page, when I talk about “jail time” we can also include work release as an option for all misdemeanor traffic DUIs. In-home detention or house arrest may be a possibility on a first DUI or DWAI in lieu of jail time.
Jail time is mandatory when you have a prior DUI/DWAI conviction. Detention time is also mandatory when your Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) was over a .20 within two hours of driving.
For prior convictions: A second alcohol-related conviction in Colorado carries a mandatory minimum of 10 (ten) days incarceration. A third DUI carries a mandatory 60 (sixty) days jail.

Mandatory Jail

Prior DUI/DWAI conviction
BAC in excess of .20 within 2 hours of the time of driving.
In every drunk driving case, there are aggravators and mitigators that a DA will consider when making an offer that may include jail. If you proceed to trial, and are convicted, the Judge may also decide to sentence you to jail time for your charges. Some aggravators include: involvement in an accident, criminal history, BAC level, other charges during the same event, leaving the scene, and bad driving.

In many first-time DUI cases, active jail will not be a part of your sentence, but suspended jail will be imposed at sentencing. This means that if you comply with the terms of probation you may never be required to serve jail in your case.

 

What conditions will I have to complete for DUI probation in Colorado?

In DUI/DWAI cases in Colorado you will be placed on probation or a deferred sentence for a period of time that allows you to complete the terms of your sentence. As a condition of probation for a drunk driving charge in Colorado you will be required to complete several terms that can typically take from months to over a year to complete.
Alcohol classes
Useful Public Service (commonly called “Community Service”)
Fines and Court Costs
MADD Victim Impact Panel
Random Urinalysis (UA) and/or Breath analysis (BA) or ETGs
No alcohol or recreational drugs
Alcohol classes are determined by “Tracks” that determine the number of alcohol classes you must complete as a condition of probation. A Level II alcohol education is a 12-week program that you attend once a week for 2 hours per week. These classes typically cost between $15-25 per class-depending on the agency you go through. After the education portion your track determines the amount of therapy hours. For example, Track A is 42 hours of therapy, Track B is 52 hours, Track C is 68 hours, and Track D is 86 hours. To determine the length of the classes, divide the total hours by 2 and you will see how many weeks it will take to complete. Education and therapy are both 2 hours a week, and no, they won’t let you double up on your classes.

 

Will this DUI really cost me $10,000?

I get asked this a lot-I’m guessing the old taxi ads and billboards saying a DUI costs $10,000 was an effective advertising campaign. The truth is, we can usually keep it quite a bit less expensive than that, even with attorney’s fees included. No one saves up for the day they will get a DUI charge, and I understand the major financial impact a DUI has on my client’s lives. There are several ways we can keep costs down for our clients depending on their individual circumstances. Here are some common costs and general amounts to be expected.

These are not solid numbers and are only approximations to give you an idea.
DUI classes: $20 a week. At this rate Track A would cost $660.
Community Service: In El Paso County the sign-up fee is $75.
Probation: $50 per month for supervised probation. Unsupervised probation is no additional cost. Two years of supervision costs $1,200.

Fines and Costs: Court costs carry a lot of different fees (like Victims Assistance Funds, and Persistent Drunk Driving Surcharges) that can vary on several different factors. To give you a ballparkidea, a first-time DUI carries about $600 in court costs. Fines for a first DUI range from $600 (mandatory minimum) to $1,000.

Attorney’s fees: At the McDowell Law Firm, these can vary depending on a number of factors. The biggest issues are number of prior convictions and the complexity of the case. We offer hourly and flat fee arrangements for Colorado DUI cases. Call me for a free consultation and I’d be happy to give you an exact amount based on the facts of your case.
Interlock device: If you lose your license you will be required to carry an interlock device on your vehicle for up to two years on a first offense. Interlock providers are private companies, so the rates will vary. These typically cost about $65-85 per month.

Am I going to lose my license?
Maybe. There are two main ways to lose your license on a DUI case.
DMV administrative hearing
Conviction for Drunk Driving charge.

License revocations are a complicated matter and can have a major impact on your life. Click here to read more about Colorado Driver’s License Suspension and revocations (hot link to DUR/DUS page). If you are above a .08 BAC you will receive a notice for an administrative DMV or DOR hearing (in Colorado the Department of Motor Vehicles is under the Department of Revenue). The DMV hearing is a win or lose proposition. If you win, and you are otherwise eligible, you can get your license back right away. If you “lose” the DMV (i.e. the revocation is entered) your license will be revoked immediately.

For a BAC of .08 or greater (but less than .150) for first time offenders, you will face a revocation of 9 months. You may be eligible for early reinstatement after 1 month and be required to maintain an interlock device on your vehicle for 8 months.

For a BAC of 1.50 or greater (called a “high BAC offender”) you will be eligible after 1 month for early reinstatement, but be required to carry the interlock for a full two years.
If this is a second or more DUI revocation you will be required to maintain interlock for at least 2 years.

For a Refusal of chemical test, it’s a one year revocation. However, you will be eligible for early reinstatement after two months and be required to carry the interlock for a full two years.

There are a lot of permutations of how the DMV revocations work, depending on your individual circumstance. It also depends on what you plead to in court on the criminal charges. For example, there are several ways to lose your license even if you have won your DMV hearing.
Pleading to a DUI
Pleading to a DUI or DWAI if you are under 21
Two DUI/DWAIs within 5 years (also called “2DD”)
Three DUI/DWAIs in a lifetime. (also called “3DD”)

What will happen to my Colorado CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) on a DUI case?

Commercial Driver’s license holders are held to a different standard. A first drunk driving offense (DUI or DWAI) will take your CDL license for one year, a second in a lifetime will permanently revoke it. Keep in mind, this is even if you are driving a non-commercial vehicle at the time of the charge. You can also lose your CDL for one year at the “per se” DMV hearing.
CDL drivers can also face a one year revocation for a BAC of .04 to a .079 if they are in a commercial vehicle.
A revocation or your CDL can have a major impact on your livelihood-please contact an experienced Colorado DUI attorney to discuss your options and your individual situation.

 

I’m under 21 years old, what will happen to me? What will happen to my license?

The biggest difference for minor drivers who have been charged with a DUI in Colorado is the effect on their ability to drive. Drunk driving charges for those 18-21 carry identical criminal penalties as they do for drivers over 21, the only difference is the DMV will take more severe actions against their driver’s license. If you are under 18, you face the same penalties, but you will not go to County jail if you are given a detention sentence. Offenders under the age of 18 will serve their time in a Juvenile detention facility. In Colorado Springs, this facility is called Spring Creek.
Minor licenses can be revoked for an Underage Drinking and Driving charge (3 months for a first conviction) which results from a BAC of .02-.049. They can also be revoked for a BAC of .05 to .079 for a 3-month period through a per se hearing. If their BAC is over a .08 they are looking at a 9-month revocation of their license through a per se hearing. They may not get early reinstatement in this situation.
This is important: If a minor Colorado driver enters a guilty plea to DUI or DWAI, they will lose their license for a full year. Minor drivers are not eligible for early reinstatement with an interlock.
Underage Drinking and Driving (“UDD”) is also often known as a “baby DUI” and is different than a DUI or DWAI for persons under the age of 21. The big difference is the BAC level. A UDD is a Class A traffic infraction and is when a minor driver’s breath alcohol is at .02 but not more than .05 at the time of driving or within two hours of the time of driving. It is a 4-point offense and carries a 3-month license revocation. A probationary license may be requested for the final 2 months in this situation. A second UDD conviction carries a 6-month revocation, and a third carries a 1 year revocation. Note: second and third UDD do not allow probationary licenses.

Underage DUI charges are a big deal and can have a major impact on a young person’s life. As a father myself, I often times speak about the importance of not closing doors to young people. A DUI conviction isn’t the end of the world, but it could possibly keep a young person from pursuing certain opportunities in their future, or at least making their goals much more difficult to obtain. Before a young person makes a potentially life-changing decision after they’ve been charged with a DUI, it is highly recommended that they speak to a Colorado Drunk driving defense lawyer.

 

What about a Marijuana DUID charge? How much marijuana can I have in my system?

With Colorado’s Marijuana laws regarding medical marijuana and recreational marijuana continually evolving, this is an important area to keep abreast of the laws. Colorado is also a pioneer state in many ways when it comes to new Marijuana and MMJ laws.

Colorado Revised Statutes §42-4-1301(1)(a) and (b) outline DUI and DWAI laws in Colorado, respectively. The basic idea is that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while “under the influence” or your “ability is impaired” by alcohol or one or more drugs. Use or marijuana, medical or otherwise, is included as “drugs” for the purpose of the DUI statute in Colorado. Basically, law enforcement can present evidence of your blood results, roadsides sobriety testing, driving, and other factors to determine if you were drugged driving.
In 2013, Colorado added an additional provision specifically regarding marijuana levels in a driver’s system. It refers to a “permissive inference” that a person is DUI if they have more than 5 nanograms of Delta 9 THC per milliliter of whole blood in their system. Delta 9 THC is your active THC, not the inactive marijuana that can stay in your blood for several weeks.

“How can they tell I was high at the time I was driving?” This is done by taking your blood shortly after you were stopped for DUI or DUID. Law enforcement will collect a sample of your blood and send it out for chemical testing. Modern tests are able to quantify the active and inactive marijuana in your system. If another illegal drug or even a prescription medication is suspected, chemical testing facilities can run presumptive tests to see what drugs are in your system and then a second confirmation test to determine the chemical compound and the amount. Law enforcement will also typically look for other clues such as: standard field sobriety tests, odor of freshly burnt marijuana, presence of drugs or paraphernalia in the vehicle, pupil dilation, admissions of use, behavior, bad driving, etc.

Will the DMV file on me for revocation based on per se level of marijuana or drugs in my system?

Not at this time, but don’t be surprised if Colorado adds a per se level for marijuana in the future. We know with alcohol the per se level is .08, but there is no per se level of any other substance like marijuana, cocaine, or any other illegal or prescription drug that will trigger a DMV per se revocation hearing.
Remember, in 2013 Colorado passed a law indicating a “permissive inference” of 5 ng for THC, but this is for criminal prosecutions only. All that being said, if you plead guilty to a DUI Drugs, or receive a second conviction within 5 years (2DD) or a third in a lifetime (3DD) you will face a license revocation. This is based on the conviction for the charge, not a per se hearing.

Call me and let’s talk if you have more questions about Colorado’s DUI and DWAI laws.
The laws are complicated and can have a major impact on your life. I can walk you through your situation and advise you of what your best options are and what you need to look out for. All the above is general information to help you understand the process and give some basic outlines of what to expect-it is not intended as legal advice regarding any specific situation. If you would like legal advice on how to handle your case, call me at (719)227-0022 to set up a free consultation at my office.