Wondering what happens for your first DUI offense in Colorado?
A first DUI offense in Colorado is technically not a traffic crime, it is actually a misdemeanor offense. A first DUI offense in Colorado is classified as an unclassified misdemeanor. For comparison’s case, this is a similar level to the class 1 misdemeanor, such as a third degree assault, in the level of severity.
Although the term “unclassified,” may not sound that bad, it doesn’t mean it’s not taken seriously.
In fact, you can lose your license for up to nine months, spend up to a year in jail, and end up spending thousands in court costs and related fees. Not to mention the extra time you’ll have to spend going to alcohol classes and possible community service.
So, What Happens for Your First DUI Offense in Colorado?
In Colorado, every arrest for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is taken seriously — even your first offense. If you are facing your first DUI conviction now, while it’s not an ideal place to be, being prepared is the best way to get through the process.
If you get arrested for DUI in Colorado, here’s what you can expect to happen next.
The Arrest: What to Expect
When blue lights are flashing in your rearview mirror after a night on the town, your first instinct is to panic. It’s a normal reaction, but the best thing you can do is remain calm and follow the officer’s instructions.
An important thing to remember when speaking to police is that anything you do or say can be used against you.
You have the right to remain silent. It is okay to let the officer know that you will not be answering any questions without a lawyer present, but you should comply with the officer’s requests — such as getting out of the car if they ask you to.
Here is what to expect if you have been pulled over for a DUI:
- Questions from the officer – The first question any police officer asks upon approach is if you know why you were pulled over. It’s important to remember that your answer to this question can be used as an admission of guilt. Additional questions may include whether you’ve been drinking or where you’ve been.
- Request for a field sobriety test – An officer who suspects you’ve been drinking, whether you tell them you have been or not, will likely ask you to take voluntary field sobriety tests. Refusing these tests won’t result in any automatic penalties. These tests may include a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, one leg stand, and the walk and turn test. Remember, these are voluntary tests, so it is up to you whether you want to do them.
- Request for a blood or breathalyzer test (also called a blood alcohol content or BAC test) to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system. Refusing this test results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for at least a year. Blowing into a PBT (or preliminary breath test) that officers sometimes have with them during the stop is NOT an admissible test. Breathalyzer tests have to be taken at the police station.
- Arrest – If the officer believes you’re intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, you will be placed under arrest. Your car may be impounded and you will be photographed and fingerprinted during the arrest. Resisting arrest will likely result in additional charges. After being arrested, you may be released to a sober individual, placed in a detox area to sober up, or put in jail until you can make bail.
Penalties for DUI in Colorado
Driving under the influence is a misdemeanor in Colorado for a first offense. However, this doesn’t mean that penalties will be mild. You could be subject to expensive fines, have your license revoked, and even serve time in jail. The circumstances surrounding your arrest will likely influence the penalties you receive. The costs of DUI definitely go beyond lawyer fees. Here’s what you can expect in penalties.
DUI First Offense
Penalties for your first DUI offense may include:
- 5 days to a year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Revocation of your license for up to 9 months
- Up to 96 hours of community service
- Alcohol education
- Ignition interlock device up to 9 months
- Drivers under 21 years old can have their driver’s license revoked for 3 months to a year or lose their license.
DUI Second Offense
Harsher penalties occur with multiple offenses. Penalties for a second DUI offense include:
- MINIMUM of 10 days to a year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,500
- Revocation of your license up to a year
- Up to 120 hours of community service
- Ignition interlock device 2 to 5 years
DUI Third Offense
Penalties for a third offense DUI include:
- MINIMUM of 60 days to a year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,500
- Indefinite license revocation – You can apply for reinstatement after 2 years.
- Up to 120 hours of community service
- Ignition interlock device 2 to 5 years.
There are certain situations that might lead to additional consequences when you’re arrested for driving while impaired from the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Refusing a BAC test – Refusal to consent to a BAC test is considered an admission of guilt and results in automatic license revocation of 1 year for a first offense, 2 years for a second offense, and three years for a third offense. Additional consequences include mandatory ignition interlock and alcohol education.
- Having a prior offense in another state – If you’ve had a prior DUI in another state within the last 5 years, your current arrest can be considered a second offense which requires a minimum of 10 days in jail.
- Exceedingly high BAC – A BAC of more than .15% or the presence of illegal drugs can lead to additional charges.
- Child in the car – Additional charges of child abuse may be included – even if the child wasn’t injured.
- You’re involved in a DUI accident – Charges related to the accident will be included in your case.
Driving While Impaired from Marijuana
Marijuana use is legal in Colorado. However, this doesn’t mean it’s legal for drivers to be behind the wheel while under the influence of the drug. The laws surrounding marijuana use and driving are similar to drunk driving laws.
- Drivers with 5 nanograms of THC in their blood can be prosecuted with DUI. No matter the level of THC, a driver can be arrested for impairment (DWAI) as observed by the officer.
- It is illegal to have an open (unsealed) container of marijuana or paraphernalia in the passenger cabin of your vehicle.
- Refusal of a blood test results in the revocation of your license.
- Officers do not offer a breath test if they suspect you have been using marijuana as a breath test will not show MJ.
- The driver’s license consequences are the same following a DUI conviction no matter whether the substance in question is drugs or alcohol.
Your Colorado DMV Hearing
At the time of your arrest, the arresting officer will confiscate your driver’s license and issue a Notice of Suspension warning. This warning will serve as your license for the next 7 days. It is important that you schedule a hearing with the DMV within 7 days of your arrest to avoid license suspension.
Your DMV hearing will occur at a DMV office. You can and should have an experienced DMV attorney with you during the hearing. Many attorneys even go to this for you so that you do not have to miss work. The arresting officer will testify about the details of your arrest. You (or your lawyer) will have the opportunity to cross-examine the arresting officer. You will also have the opportunity to offer your own statement about your arrest. The DMV hearing is only to deal with the potential suspension of your license. However, it will give your attorney the chance to hear all of the details of your case to prepare for a court trial.
Will a First DUI Offense in Colorado Affect Your Future?
Even if it’s your first offense, DUI can have a major effect on the way you’re used to living your life. No matter the outcome of your trial, your arrest will appear (at least temporarily) on your permanent record. Additional difficulties can include higher insurance premiums, the installation of an ignition interlock device, a suspended driver’s license, and even potential job loss. In other words, you’ll be facing big changes in many aspects of your everyday life.
If you’ve been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, don’t assume that the court will provide leniency because it’s your first offense. No matter the circumstances surrounding your DUI, an experienced Colorado Springs DUI attorney can help.