Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to severe consequences. In Colorado, there are two main categories of impaired driving: DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) and DWAI (driving while ability impaired by alcohol or drugs). Both are stringent charges and could lead to losing one’s license, especially if this is not one’s first time driving under the influence. 

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DUI in Colorado

 According to Colorado’s DUI laws, it is illegal to operate a vehicle (even non-motorized) while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and/or with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08% or greater. A high blood alcohol level is not the only reason a person can be charged with a DUI in Colorado. If you meet any of the following criteria, you can be charged with a DUI and potentially get your license suspended.

  • You can be charged with a DUI even if your breathalyzer comes back below .080
  • You can and will be charged with a DUI if you refuse to submit testing while showing signs of being under the influence
  • You are guilty of a DUI if you refuse to submit to testing if you demonstrate signs of being under the influence
  • A failed BAC of .08 or higher equals a license suspension for 9 months 
    • You can be eligible for a probationary license if you install an ignition interlock device 

DWAI in Colorado 

A DWAI is a serious, but lesser charge than a DUI. Colorado’s DUI states that a person is guilty of a DWAI when you are affected by alcohol and/or drugs in the “slightest degree.” This means you are less able to mentally or physically safely operate a vehicle than you ordinarily would have been. So, if your BAC was under the legal limit and your driving was not impaired than you did not commit a DWAI. However the typical standard is that if a  person’s blood alcohol level exceeds .05% but is less than .08% then it is assumed that the person’s ability to operate a vehicle was impaired. The typical consequences for this charge are: 

  •  8 DMV points added to your driving record on the first offense . 
  • A fine of $200-$500
  • 24-48 hours of community service 
  • 2-180 days in jail 
  • If you commit a DWAI twice, your license will be revoked for 12 months. If you commit a 3rd DWAI, then your license will be revoked for 24 months (2 years)

What Happens if you Refuse a Breathalyzer?

 While it may seem like a good idea to refuse a breathalyzer test in order to avoid getting charged for a DUI or DWAI, there are significant penalties for breathalyzer refusal in Colorado. Legally, you are allowed to refuse a preliminary breath or field sobriety test. However, if you are arrested for a DUI you must submit to a breath or blood test due to Colorado’s express consent law. This means that if you are arrested for driving under the influence and you refuse the test, it can lead to: 

  • An automatic 1 year suspension of your drivers license and 
  • Being designated as a persistent drunk 

Unfortunately, mistakes happen. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DUI or DWAI or refused a breathalyzer, contacting an experienced Colorado DUI attorney can help you fight the charges and obtain the best possible outcome.