Does Colorado Have A Zero Tolerance Law For DUI?

Zero Tolerance Law For DUI in Colorado

Colorado drivers under the legal drinking age are subject to zero tolerance law, making a DUI a very serious offense that brings major consequences and penalties. However, a DUI in the state is more encompassing than in other states and also includes:

  • Driving while impaired
  • Driving under the influence

Anyone under the legal drinking age that operates a motor vehicle in the state must understand these laws.

What is a Zero Tolerance Law?

Zero tolerance laws are put in place in many states as a way to deter drivers from operating vehicles when intoxicated. “Zero tolerance” means that even if a small amount of alcohol is found in your blood, it can result in charges.

Does Colorado Have a Zero Tolerance Law?

In the State of Colorado, there are a few things to know:

  • A blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% is considered a DUI
  • Zero tolerance laws are in place for minors

Colorado also has an enhanced penalty if you have a BAC that exceeds 0.17%.

When Do Zero Tolerance Laws Apply?

Nationwide, people must be 21 years of age or older to possess alcohol. While adults are considered under the influence when their BAC is 0.08%, anyone under the age of 21 is subject to zero tolerance dui rules. In this case, even a 0.02% BAC would be considered a DUI.

In fact, if your BAC is 0.02% to 0.05%, you’ve surpassed the legal BAC limit.

A single drink may be all that’s needed for an underage driver to face a DWAI or DUI. If any illegal substances are found in the person’s body, they can also be charged with a DUI.

Zero Tolerance and Probation

One common misconception is that these policies only apply to drivers under 21. However, there is one circumstance where every driver may be subject to these strict laws: probation. If a person is on probation, they’re also subject to zero tolerance laws.

Drug and Medicine Impairment

Even if a doctor prescribes them, illegal drugs are subject to zero tolerance. Additionally, even over-the-counter medications may trigger a DUI in certain circumstances.

For example, let’s assume that you take sleeping medications. If you took a sleeping pill, received a call from a friend and had to rush to their aid, you may be considered under the influence.


Sleeping pills can impair driving because they make you drowsy. A general rule of thumb is that if a prescription or over-the-counter medication may impair driving in any way, it may result in a DUI charge.

Colorado Zero Tolerance DUI Law Penalties

DUI laws in Colorado are strict and aim to deter drivers from ever drinking while impaired. Thankfully, underage drinking and driving (UDD) policies do not make your first offense a crime. Instead, you’ll be cited with a traffic violation on your first offense.

A first offense can result in fines of up to $150, license suspension of up to three months, 24 hours of community service and four points on your license.

However, subsequent UDD is classified as a misdemeanor, with higher consequences:

  • 2nd offenses may result in 10 – 90 days of jail time, fines of $150 – $300, up to six months license suspension, community service ranging from 40 to 120 hours and four points on your license.
  • 3rd offenses may result in the same punishment as a second offense, but you may lose your license for up to one year.

All offenses may require you to attend an alcohol treatment program, education, evaluation or assessment. All of these additional measures are at your own expense and not part of the fine you are ordered to pay.

BAC of 0.05% to Under 0.08%

If your BAC level is 0.05% or over, your offense is more serious. In this case, you’ll face DWAI charges, which include:

  • 1st offense charges with fines of $200 to $500, court costs, eight points on your license, community service and up to 180 days in jail.
  • 2nd offense charges with fines of $600 to $1,500, jail time of 10 days to one year, one year license suspension and community service, and points on your driving record.
  • 3rd offenses have the same penalties as a second offense, but jail time starts at a 60-day minimum and license suspension of up to two years is added.

BAC of 0.08% or Higher

Despite being under the legal age to possess alcohol, if your BAC meets or exceeds the adult limit for a DUI, you’ll face traditional DUI charges. DUIs also result in possible jail time, fines of up to $1,500, license suspension, community service and more penalties.

How a Lawyer Can Help You Fight a DUI

Zero tolerance DUI law holds drivers accountable for drinking even one can of beer or a glass of wine before driving. However, you always have a right to defend yourself in court. A criminal defense lawyer can help aid in your defense by:

  • Reviewing all procedures leading to you being pulled over by police
  • Advocate to have your sentence reduced

A lawyer works to protect your best interest and will try to have a judge reduce or drop charges.

Author Bio

alexis austin

Alexis Austin is the CEO and Managing Partner of Right Law Group, a criminal defense law firm she founded in 2018, with convenient locations in Colorado Springs, Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch. With almost a decade of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Alexis received her Juris Doctor from the University of Denver — Sturm College of Law and is a member of the Colorado Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named among the “Top 40 Under 40” in 2018 by The National Trial Lawyers and featured in Authority Magazine’s “Top Lawyers” series.

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