What is the difference between DWAI and DUI in Colorado?

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Two terms that can come up in connection to allegations of drunk driving here in Colorado are DUI and DWAI. It is important to note that these terms are not interchangeable. Rather they describe two separate types of offenses under Colorado law.

DWAI stands for driving while ability impaired. Under state law, driving while alcohol or a drug is affecting, in the slightest degree, one’s ability to drive safely is DWAI. State law specifies that a driver testing with a BAC of at least 0.05 but below 0.08 creates a “permissible inference” of DWAI.

DUI, on the other hand, stands for driving under the influence. Under state law, this is the offense of driving while one has been rendered substantially incapable of safe driving by alcohol or a drug. According to state law, a driver testing with a BAC at or over 0.08 creates a “permissible inference” of DUI and can expose a driver to charges of per se DUI.

DWAI and DUI also carry different penalties. Take, for example, the penalties for a first offense. The standard penalties for a first offense of DWAI include:

  • A fine of $200 to $500
  • Jail time of two to 180 days
  • Community service of 24 to 48 hours

DUI carries heavier penalties, with the standard penalties for a first offense including:

  • A fine of $600 to $1,000
  • Jail time of five days to one year
  • Community service of 48 to 96 hours

So, when individuals are accused of drunk driving in Colorado, whether they are charged with DUI or DWAI is very impactful. It affects things such as what prosecutors would need to prove in the case and what consequences a person would be subject to if convicted.

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