Available 24/7

What will happen on my first DUI Charge in Colorado?

This is the big question people always ask me when we first meet.  Obviously, a drunk driving charge is incredibly scary, and people come to a DUI attorney looking for answers, and hopefully some comfort, in knowing what to expect.

The most common questions we get asked are:

  1. Am I going to jail for a first DUI in Colorado?
  2. Will I lose my license for a DUI? And for how long?
  3. How much will a DUI or DWAI cost me?
  4. Is there anything I can do to help my situation after I’ve been charged with a DUI?

Am I going to Jail for a first DUI or DWAI in Colorado?

I hate to do this, but the answer is: it depends. DUI cases are very complex matters that involve a lot of moving parts. The big issues that can have an impact on jail time are: your blood Alcohol Content (BAC), the location of the offense, who your DA and/or Judge will be, was there an accident? Was anybody injured?

It has been my experience, that the most important factor regarding jail time on a first DUI, is the first factor I listed, your BAC. In Colorado, when an officer has probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence of alcohol drugs or both, Colorado law states that you “expressly consent” to taking a chemical test. (Important: you can still refuse a chemical test, but there will be some consequences, such as potential for a longer loss of license). If that chemical test of either your breath or blood comes back over a .20 BAC or BrAC (Breath Alcohol content) within two hours of the time driving, 10 days jail is the mandatory minimum.

“Jail” in this instance can also mean work release. Some jurisdictions/Judges also allow in home detention, or in-patient treatment in lieu of jail in this situation. Just because your BAC is over a .20, doesn’t always mean you are going to jail. A skilled DUI Defense lawyer can review your case and verify the strength of the DA’s case and potentially negotiate a no jail deal. If that doesn’t work, your attorney may recommend filing motions to suppress or going to a jury trial in your case.

Jail time is possible in all DUI and DWAI cases, but that doesn’t mean it is probable that you will be serving jail time. As I listed above, different jurisdictions and DA’s offices take different approaches to DUI cases, and in some counties you are more likely to serve jail time than in others. This is where a good local DUI attorney can help you with the ins and outs of their local courts.

Another factor that plays a part in determining whether there will be a plea bargain involving jail time is whether there are any aggravating factors outside of your BAC. Some examples of aggravating factors include:

Was there an accident? Was anybody hurt?

What was the status of your license at the time of the DUI (was your driver’s license under suspension, revoked or denied)

Was your vehicle properly registered and insured?

Did you receive any additional charges such as child abuse, resisting arrest, obstructing a peace officer, etc.?

These factors and others can play a major part in how your case is resolved.

Will I lose my license for a DUI or DWAI in Colorado?

The answer is “maybe”, and the probability of losing your license depends on several factors. When a DUI is charged in Colorado, two processes begin; the criminal case and the DMV administrative action. You can lose your license for a time period through either of these processes.

First, if your BAC was a .08 or greater at the time of driving or within two hours, an administrative DMV case (a “per se” revocation) will be started against you in addition to the criminal charges.

For any Colorado DMV revocation based on a DUI, you will have the option of an administrative hearing with a DMV hearing officer. These hearings for revocation purposes are all or nothing. Either you walk out with your license or your suspension starts right then and there after the hearing.

For a first DUI, the revocation is for a 9 month period. However, it is important to note that you are likely eligible for early reinstatement after serving  1 month of revocation. You will be required to carry an interlock device in your vehicle for 8 months for BACs between .08 and .149, and for 2 years for “high BAC offenders”. (in excess of .150)

You can also lose your license for a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction. Because a DUI is 12 points it will cause a revocation of your license. It is a similar revocation to the DMV action, that is: 9 months, but eligible for early reinstatement after 1 month.

That being said, if you are below a .08 BAC there is a very good chance you can avoid a license revocation altogether. A BAC below a .08 will not trigger a DMV express consent hearing. Additionally, a DWAI conviction will  not cause a revocation by itself. Be careful with your points though, as the 8 points from a DWAI could cause a point suspension if you have other points during that year.

The DMV can get VERY tricky on suspension/revocations, and how they affect your license status. Please call a DUI defense attorney to discuss your specific situation to better understand your exposure and potential consequences.

Will a DUID (drugs) cause me to lose my license?

It depends. The big issue is what you plead guilty to in court. As I write this (January 2019) there is no amount of drugs (other than alcohol) that trigger a “per se” hearing at the DMV. As discussed above, if your BAC is above a .08 your will face a DMV hearing, but not with drugs. Of course, if you are under the influence of prescription or recreational drugs, you may still face criminal charges. For example, there is now a legal limit for THC in Colorado, which is 5 nanograms of active THC in your system, but you could have much more than that in your system and a DMV hearing will not be filed against you.

This means with DUI drug cases, the big thing to watch out for is what criminal charge you are convicted of, or plead guilty to. A DWAI drugs conviction will not cause a license revocation by itself, but a DUI drugs will. Remember, any guilty plea to a DUI, whether it be drugs or alcohol-related, will trigger a license revocation.

For license reinstatement purposes for a DUID (drugs) conviction, the revocation will be a 9 month revocation, but you will likely be eligible for early reinstatement with an interlock device after 1 month.

What if I refused chemical testing? What will happen to my license?

A refusal to take a chemical test under Colorado’s express consent law can also result in a revocation of you driving privileges. Under Colorado’s express consent law, by driving on Colorado’s roads, you have already “expressly consented” to give a sample of your breath or blood for chemical testing when a police officer has probable cause to believe you are under the influence of drugs/alcohol or both. A refusal is technically a one year revocation, but adults are eligible for early reinstatement with an interlock device. Interlock must be carried for two years on refusal cases.

How much will a DUI cost me in Colorado?

This is one of the most common questions we hear. A few years back, there was an anti-DUI campaign in Colorado that had billboards and signs on taxis that said a DUI will cost you $10,000. It must have been a good campaign, because I know this is a common number people ask me about. “Will a DUI really cost me $10,000?”.

The answer is, it doesn’t have to cost that much, but it won’t be cheap.  There are several ways to save money and keep costs down on a DUI charge.

The first big cost is fines, fees and probation costs. A first DWAI in Colorado carries a fine between $200 (minimum) and $600 fine, while a DUI is between $600 (minimum) and $1,000 fine. This is in addition to any court costs surcharges that typically are around $600.

Next, you will have probation costs if you are on supervised probation. Unsupervised probation is free, but supervision fees are currently $50 per month. These can add up, as 24 months of probation will cost $1,200 in supervision fees alone!

You may also have costs associated with random testing of your breath and/or urine. These can get costly if you are doing 2 UAs, BAs or ETGs a week for two years. The amount of tests depends on your specific plea agreement or sentence.

We also have to consider the costs of alcohol classes and treatment. A typical DUI/DWAI in Colorado can have as few as 12 weeks of classes or as many 86 hours (43 weeks) of therapy. At an average of about $25 per class, this can add up to $1,375 for 55 weeks of classes. Keep in mind, the amount of classes/therapy will vary depending on your specific situation and is often significantly less than 55 weeks of classes.

You will also have to pay for community service (currently $75 at Front Range in Colorado Springs) and $50 for the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) Victim Impact Panel.

Another big expense can be your DUI defense lawyer. Attorney’s fees can vary widely based on location, experience, reputation etc. Many DUI attorneys in Colorado offer flat fees for DUI cases, others work on an hourly basis. Make sure you speak to your potential attorney about fee structures and what you can expect to pay for their services. Do they include the DMV hearing in their fee? How much is a trial fee if the case proceeds to trial? Are there any  hidden costs?

There can also be costs associated with reinstating your license. This can be the cost of an SR-22 insurance, reinstatement fees at the DMV which are currently $95, and the cost of an interlock device installed in your car.

An experienced DUI defense attorney will help you try and minimize the costs and fines/fees associated with a DUI through plea negotiations and persuasive argument at sentencing with the Judge. Although a DUI will always be expensive, it has been my experience that there are many ways to reduce the amount of expenses paid out my clients on a DUI case.

Is there anything I can do to help my situation after I’ve been charged with a DUI?

Yes! There is a lot you can do to help your situation after you have been charged with a DUI. In every case, I remind you to speak with an attorney about your specific situation, but I can give you a few ideas that are generally very helpful in a DUI charge in Colorado.

First, find a good DUI defense lawyer and help them prepare your case. Take notes, write down everything you can remember, as early on as you can. This includes dates, times, descriptions, witnesses names and numbers, photos, whatever you think might be helpful. Your attorney wasn’t at the scene, and in most cases we are left to rely on the police’s notes and reports about the investigation. These are by their very nature one-sided and are prepared for the purpose of your prosecution. These reports will most likely not be in your favor.

Secondly, you may be advised to enroll in alcohol education and/or therapy. If you take the correct classes at an approved location you will receive “credit” for the classes later on in your criminal case and at the DMV. You can also enroll in community service early as well. It’s a very good idea to start knocking out some hours of public service as soon as you can. A third item to complete is a MADD Victim Impact Program. All three of these things are required under the DUI statute, and can be completed before plea and sentencing. It has been my experience that by completing these items (or at least getting started on them) can show a lot of initiative to the Court and DA and can benefit you in your case.

Obviously, every situation is different, but there are several ways you can make this bad situation a lot better/easier on yourself. I’d be happy to speak with you about your circumstances to tailor a plan that is right for you.