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What Is A DUI?

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Driving Under the Influence


A DUI can have lasting consequences that negatively affect your life and future plans.

What is a DUI and what does that mean for my future? These are likely the questions running through your mind if you have been charged with DUI in Colorado. It’s important to remember however that there is still hope. The laws are strict, but they are not impossible to navigate. Don’t give up on yourself or your future. It is important to have a full understanding of your situation and your charges in order to determine the best course of action.









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What Is a DUI in Colorado?


Under Colorado law, it is explicitly forbidden for anyone to drive a vehicle while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs in a way that impairs their ability to safely operate the vehicle. The common abbreviations you will see are DUI (which stands for driving under the influence), DWAI (which stands for driving while ability impaired), and DUID (which stands for driving under the influence of drugs). 

Intoxication is most often proved via blood and breath tests. These determine the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver. Colorado has a strict BAC limit of .08, and operating a vehicle while over this limit is grounds for a DUI charge. DWAI charges can happen when BAC is above .05 but below .08. DUID can happen if you have drugs in your system including legal and/or prescription drugs! 

Colorado also has a DUI per se law. This means that even if you were driving perfectly, and in no way showing signs of intoxication or impairment so long as your BAC is above .08 then you could be charged with DUI per se. The penalties are generally the same for DUI per se charges, but will depend on the other factors involved, such as previous convictions and whether someone was seriously injured or killed in the incident.

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What is a DUI and what are the penalties in Colorado?


First DUI

In Colorado, a first-time DUI is generally a misdemeanor charge. The possible penalties include:

  • Fines of $600 – $1,000
  • License suspension of 9-months
  • 12 points on your license
  • Community service from 48-96 hours
  • Possible jail time from 5 days to a year
  • Probation – either supervised or unsupervised – from 12-24 months

Second DUI

In Colorado, a second offense DUI is also generally a misdemeanor charge. The possible penalties include:

  • Fines of $600 – $1,500 License suspension for 1-year
  • Ignition interlock requirement of 2-years
  • 12 points on your license
  • Community service of 48-120 hours
  • Mandatory jail time from 10 days to a year
  • Probation – usually supervised – from 12-24 months

Third DUI

In Colorado, a third offense DUI is also generally a misdemeanor charge. The possible penalties include:

  • Fines of $600 – $1,500
  • License suspension for 2-years
  • Ignition interlock requirement of 2-years
  • 12 points on your license
  • Community service for 48-120 hours
  • Mandatory jail time from 60 days to a year
  • Probation – usually supervised – from 12-24 months

Fourth and Subsequent DUI

In Colorado, a fourth (or subsequent) DUI is generally a felony charge. The possible penalties for a fourth or subsequent offenses include:

  • Fines anywhere from $2,000 – $500,000
  • A possible prison sentence of 2-6 years with a 3-year parole
  • Probation can be possible instead of prison, but it usually lasts 2- 5 years with anywhere from 90 days to 2 years in jail done first


In Colorado, a first-time DWAI (driving while ability impaired) is generally a misdemeanor charge. The possible penalties for a first-time DWAI include:

  • Fines of $200 – $500
  • 8 points on your license
  • Community service of 24-48 hours
  • Possible jail time from 2 – 180 days

Colorado criminal procedure

  • Arrest or

    Arrest or

    The process begins with either an arrest or a summons. The accused is either arrested or served with paperwork summoning them to appear in court. During an arrest, Miranda rights may or may not be read to you. Officers are only required to recite your rights if they intend to question you about potentially incriminating things.

  • Bond Hearing

    Bond Hearing

    In most cases, you're entitled to have a reasonable bond set after you've been arrested. In situations involving domestic violence, the police will request input from the victim before setting a bond. Bonds are set to ensure that a person appears in court at their court dates. If they don’t show up, they forfeit the money that was paid for the bond.

  • Advisement of

    Advisement of

    Whether you are arrested or given a summons to appear, the court must make sure you understand what crimes you are being accused of committing. This is called advisement of charges. The District Attorney will detail the specific charges against you, and the Judge has to make sure you understand what possible penalties are associated with that charge in the state.

  • Preliminary Hearing
    (for Higher Felony

    Preliminary Hearing
    (for Higher Felony

    A preliminary hearing is a way for your defense attorney to challenge the District Attorney’s right to bring charges against you by making them prove that there is reason to believe you committed a crime. The Judge is not deciding your guilt or innocence, but rather whether or not there is probable cause to charge you with the crime in question.

  • Pretrial Conference /

    Pretrial Conference /

    This court date comes after your attorney has reviewed all of the reports and evidence in your case. Here’s where your attorney will engage in plea negotiations with the DA. If they can reach an agreement on the case, you may be able to take a plea bargain. If they cannot reach a resolution, your case will be set for an arraignment or trial date.

  • Arraignment


    An arraignment is the final date for you to decide how you choose to plea. Guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, then the case is set for a sentencing date. If you plead not guilty, you and your attorney will then set the case for trial.

  • Motions Hearing

    Motions Hearing

    A motion hearing is when an attorney makes a request that requires a decision from the judge. For example, motions to suppress evidence or statements. These motions can limit the information that goes before a jury if it benefits your case, and there are legal grounds for doing so.

  • Pretrial Readiness

    Pretrial Readiness

    A pretrial readiness conference is held at some point before trial. It usually is held about a week to a month before the date trial is set to begin. This court date ensures everyone is ready to go to trial on the set date. It is also a time for lawyers to bring up any issues they may have to be addressed before the day of trial.

  • Jury Trial

    Jury Trial

    After a jury is selected for trial, the District Attorney’s responsibility is to present the case to the jury. The DA must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the crime. Otherwise, the jury must find you innocent. Your attorney will be able to cross-examine all of the witnesses, present evidence, and ultimately help you navigate this process.

  • Sentencing


    At sentencing, the Judge must decide the appropriate legal penalty for the crime you plead guilty. The Judge’s decision is based on the listed penalties for the specific charge, recommendations from the presentence investigation, your criminal history, as well as statements made at the sentencing by the District Attorney, your attorney, you, and any named victims of the crime.

What is the sentence for misdemeanors in Colorado?

  • Class 1

  • 6 to 18 months in county jail, and/or
  • $500 to $5,000 in fines
  • For extraordinary risk class 1 misdemeanors, the maximum jail sentence is 24 months.
  • For 3rd-degree assault (CRS 18-3-204), the maximum sentence can be 48 months if the victim was on duty as a:
    • Peace officer,
    • Emergency medical provider,
    • Firefighter, or
    • Mental health professional at the Department of Human Services.
  • Class 2

  • 3 to 12 months in county jail, and/or
  • $250 to $1,000 in fines

What are Colorado felony penalties?

  • Class 1

  • Life imprisonment
  • No Colorado crime carries the death penalty.
  • Class 2

  • 8 – 24 years in Colorado State Prison, and/or
  • $5,000 – $1,000,000
  • 5 years of mandatory parole if the offense is a crime of violence. Otherwise, 3 years of mandatory parole.
  • Class 3

  • 4-12 years in prison
  • Fines of up to $750,000 but not less than $3,000
  • 3 years of parole
  • Class 4

  • 2 – 6 years in prison, and/or
  • $2,000 – $500,000
  • 3 years of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 4 felonies, the maximum sentence is 8 years in prison.
  • Class 5

  • 1 – 3 years in prison, and/or
  • $1,000 – $100,000
  • 2 years of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 5 felonies, the maximum sentence is 4 years in prison.
  • Class 6

  • 1 – 18 months years in prison, and/or
  • $1,000 – $100,000
  • 1 year of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 6 felonies, the maximum sentence is 2 years in prison.



Colorado Springs Criminal Defense Attorney


At Right Law Group, we understand the stress you are under. Our Criminal Defense Law Firm is here to guide you down the right path to your legal challenge. Whether you are facing your first DUI, a drug charge, need a restraining order, or are facing another type of criminal charge, our firm is committed to your well-being and protecting your rights the right way.

Does a DUI ruin your life?

No, a DUI does not have to ruin your life. It does, of course, come with penalties, but with an experienced attorney on your side, these penalties can be limited. You will be able to focus on your work, your family, and your life, while your attorney can help you navigate the intricacies of your charges.

How bad is a first offense DUI?

Colorado is very strict on DUI charges, including for first offenses. Depending on the facts of your case, a first-time DUI could come with any of the following penalties:

  • $600 – $1,000 in fines
  • 9-month license suspension
  • 12 points on your license
  • 48-96 hours of community service
  • Jail time from 5 days to a year
  • Probation up to 2 years

What is the DUI law in Colorado?

In Colorado, a DUI charge is for someone found driving a vehicle while under the influence, generally meaning they had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, or under the influence of drugs. According to Colorado law, DUI charges are usually misdemeanors. Some charges, however, are felonies. The most common felonies in Colorado are due to it being the driver’s fourth or more DUI, or if there were significant bodily injuries or death involved.

Experienced DUI Lawyer

Should I hire a Colorado Springs DUI lawyer?


You should contact a Colorado Springs DUI lawyer immediately if you have been arrested or charged with driving under the influence. In Colorado, you only have seven days from the date of your arrest to request an administrative hearing from the DMV if you choose a breath test or refuse testing, otherwise, your license will be automatically suspended. If you choose a blood test you only have seven days from the date of your blood results to request a hearing. You will want to have an experienced lawyer by your side to make sure you have the best chance possible at keeping your license.

We understand that mistakes happen. When they do, you need an attorney to defend you. We can analyze your circumstances and prepare a proper defense. We know EXACTLY what constitutes a DUI in Colorado. We also know the judges and prosecutors and will strive to get your most favorable outcome.

What is a DUI? If you are unsure and need help navigating the Colorado legal system, contact Right Law Group today for a free case evaluation. You may be able to keep your license. Call us now to get help. An experienced lawyer can help get you through this. Contact us today for a FREE consultation.

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