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Colorado Habitual Traffic Offender

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It’s true that many traffic offenses are minor and do not carry hefty fines and stiff penalties, especially for first-time offenders. However, those who commit repeat offenses face severe penalties under Colorado law. Colorado habitual traffic offenders typically face license suspension for years and have to serve jail time on top of fines for their traffic citations. Being declared a Colorado habitual traffic offender has serious repercussions that impact drivers professionally and financially, making it necessary to fight tickets with the help of an experienced attorney.

Those designated as Habitual Traffic Offenders (HTO) in Colorado Springs will have to go to court in El Paso County. Habitual traffic offenders typically go to criminal court instead of basic traffic court which is reserved for speeding tickets and minor violations. Additionally, the Colorado Springs District Attorney’s Office has the authority to seize or order a habitual traffic offender to forfeit their motor vehicle because they are considered a public nuisance.

What Makes Someone a Habitual Offender?

Colorado drivers who receive multiple citations for moving violations can be designated a habitual traffic offender two ways: three strikes in seven years or the accumulation of excessive DMV points.

Three Strikes for Colorado Traffic Offenders

In Colorado, drivers convicted of three major traffic offenses in seven years can be declared a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO). Colorado includes the following offenses as strikes towards an HTO declaration:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license
  • Vehicular assault
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Aggravated theft of a motor vehicle (car-jacking)
  • Making false claims about any matter concerned with motor vehicle laws or the information required to administer those laws

Points Against Colorado Drivers’ Licenses

Colorado’s Department of Motor Vehicles can also declare a driver an HTO if they accumulate too many points against their drivers’ license within five years. Drivers with the following face an HTO designation:

  • 10 or more separate moving violations that add four or more points against a license
  • 18 or more separate moving violations that add three or fewer points against a license

On a separate but related note, remember that the DMV is not required to notify drivers if they are close to meeting the threshold of an HTO. Drivers have to check their DMV record regularly.

What Are the Penalties for Being a Habitual Offender in Colorado?

Any time the state declares a driver as a habitual traffic offender, they revoke the driver’s license for five years. They have to pay the applicable fees to get their license reinstated when the revocation period ends. However, if an HTO drives during revocation, the penalties are much steeper.

  • Driving after revocation—legally referred to as driving after revocation prohibited (DARP)—comes with a mandatory jail sentence of a minimum of 30 days. Those convicted face up to 18 months in jail and fines up to $5,000.
  • If driving after revocation includes another charge for a major moving violation, someone designated as an HTO faces felony charges of aggravated driving. This comes with up to two years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
  • Colorado Springs’ District Attorney may choose to seize an HTO’s vehicle if they drive while their license is revoked.

How Can an Attorney Help Someone Who Is a Habitual Offender?

Everyone has rights, even when they allegedly violate the rules of the road. An experienced criminal defense attorney protects the rights of their clients and looks for ways to remove an HTO designation and/or reduce related penalties. Some common defenses attorneys use for habitual traffic offenders include:

  • Inaccuracies on a DMV record
  • Mistaken identity of a driver
  • Only driving to take someone to the hospital or other emergency
  • Not guilty of the moving violation that led to the HTO declaration
  • Inadequate legal representation for an earlier conviction

Don’t Let One Wrong Decision Impact Your Life, Job or Freedom.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is being a habitual traffic offender a felony?

Technically, being a habitual traffic offender occurs because of a collection of convictions. In and of itself, an HTO designation is not a felony. However, one or more of the moving violations that led to the declaration could be felonies. Additionally, a habitual traffic offender who drives after revocation risks a felony conviction if they are charged with another major moving violation at the same time.

Can a habitual traffic offender get a hardship license?

Sometimes an HTO might qualify for a hardship license to travel to and from work or to and from medical appointments. However, it depends on the situation. The five-year license revocation for an HTO typically does not provide an opportunity for relief. An experienced attorney can review the facts of your case and advise you if you qualify for a hardship license. They can also help you find other solutions to get your driving privileges reinstated as soon as possible.

What happens to drivers who are habitual offenders?

The short answer is that habitual offenders lose their Colorado drivers’ license for five years. However, if a habitual traffic offender gets caught driving after revocation, they face mandatory jail time and hefty fines. Aside from court-imposed penalties, habitual traffic offenders face professional and financial consequences. HTOs must rely on public transportation, rideshare, taxis, friends, and family to get them to and from where they need to go. This can be more costly than using one’s vehicle. Additionally, those who have jobs that require them to drive a company vehicle could potentially get fired.

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