What is the DUI Statute of Limitations in Colorado?

What is the DUI Statute of Limitations in Colorado

You could face hefty fines and possible jail time when you get pulled over for a DUI (driving under the influence).

You also have to worry about unexpected consequences of drunk driving in Colorado, like employment issues, custody issues, and higher insurance costs.

That’s why it’s crucial to understand your rights regarding the DUI statute of limitations in Colorado, which can range between 18 months and five years, depending on the severity of your criminal offenses. An experienced criminal defense attorney can also review your case and advise of the limitations period.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

For any criminal or civil offense, there is a deadline for when the prosecution (or the plaintiff in civil cases) can begin legal proceedings and file criminal charges or civil charges against the alleged offender. The clock for this timeframe starts at the date of the incident, and once the clock runs out, no legal action can be taken against the offender.

Why Do Statutes of Limitations Exist?

Statutes of limitations have been around for a long time—even dating back to Ancient Greece and Rome. The reasons for the existence of these statutes are two-fold:

To Protect the Integrity of the Case

The main reason for statutes of limitations is to ensure that case evidence remains reliable. Eyewitness accounts cannot be relied upon if recounted years later, and tangible evidence often becomes lost over time. Without evidence, any case starts to fall apart.

To Protect the Rights of the Offender

Everyone has rights—even those who have allegedly done something wrong. Statutes of limitations protect accused persons from having to live in fear for years and years of the possibility of legal action being taken against them.

What is the Statute of Limitations for DUI in Colorado?

The severity of drunk driving offenses varies, and Colorado classifies them as misdemeanors or felonies depending on several factors.

The Colorado DUI statute of limitations differs between the classifications:

  • Misdemeanor DUI: 18-month statute of limitations
  • Felony DUI: Three-year statute of limitations
  • When DUI involved death and fleeing the scene: Five-year statute of limitations

Definitions and Penalties of Misdemeanor DUIs in Colorado

Driving while ability impaired (DWAI) and DUI charges in Colorado are often considered misdemeanors, but the penalties become heavier with each repeat offense.

First-Time DUI

Your first offense carries several possible penalties, including:

  • Between $600 and $1,000 in fines
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for a maximum of nine months
  • Community service of between 48 and 96 hours
  • Jail time ranging from five days to one year

Your blood alcohol level, or blood alcohol content (BAC), at the time of your arrest could impact the penalties of your first-time DUI. You’ll be sentenced as a repeat DUI offender if your BAC is 0.15% or more, and jail time is automatic if your BAC is 0.2% or higher.

Second-Time DUI

For your second DUI offense, the penalties increase and include:

  • Between $600 and $1,500 in fines
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for a maximum of one year
  • Community service of between 48 and 120 hours
  • Jail time ranging from 10 days to one year
  • Mandatory use of an interlock device on your ignition for two years once your license is reinstated

Third-Time DUI

The final level of misdemeanor DUIs carries even higher penalties, including:

  • Between $600 and $1,500 in fines
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for a maximum of two years
  • Community service of between 48 and 120 hours
  • Jail time ranging from 60 days to one year
  • Mandatory use of an interlock device on your ignition for two years once your license is reinstated

Definitions and Penalties of Felony DUIs in Colorado

A DUI is considered a felony when you’ve already had three previous DUIs, you had a child in the car, or your DUI resulted in a severe injury or death.

Penalties are much heftier for a felony DUI, and include:

  • Between $2,000 and $500,000 in fines ($3,000–$750,000 if DUI caused a death)
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for a maximum of two years
  • Community service of between 48 and 120 hours
  • Prison time, ranging from two to six years, with three years of mandatory parole (four to seven years or prison, with five years of parole if DUI caused a death)

DUI Statute of Limitations Vs. Failure to Appear in Court

If you think you’ll skip your DUI court date to run out the clock on the DUI statute of limitations… think again.

Failure to appear in court for your DUI case does not impact the statute of limitations for this offense. The deadline applies only to the date the state decides to file charges for your DUI, which often occurs before your first hearing.

If charges have already been filed in court and you fail to appear for your DUI, a bench warrant could be issued for your arrest—and those never expire!

How Long Until a DUI is Off Your Record in Colorado?

The hard truth is that a DUI conviction—whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony DUI charge—will remain on your criminal record forever. Even if you are never convicted, or the case is dismissed, the case details of your charge can still appear on your criminal record.

There are some instances in which an individual may get their DUI offenses removed from their records, which requires either expungement or sealing of their records, but that only happens if you do not get a conviction

Understanding the Look-back Period in Colorado

The length of time for a past conviction to impact future cases is called the look-back period. For example, if you got a DUI decades ago and are facing charges for one now, will you receive the penalties of a second-time DUI? How much time must expire before it’s considered a first-time offense again?

Unfortunately, in Colorado, there is no amount of time that can pass for a previous DUI charge to not matter. Colorado has a lifetime look-back period, meaning if you had a DUI 20 years ago and then get one today, it will still be considered your second DUI charge. The only lookback period that applies in Colorado is whether you are eligible for sentencing alternatives. Every 2nd and subsequent DUI charge in Colorado has mandatory jail time associated with it; however, if your 1st DUI conviction was more than 10 years ago, then your second DUI conviction can be eligible for a jail sentence alternative such as work release or in-home detention (aka house arrest). These sentence alternatives based on the 10-year lookback period only apply to 2nd DUI charges, however. For a 3rd or more DUI, you will still face mandatory jail or prison time for lifetime lookback periods.

Our Colorado DUI Lawyers Can Help

If you’re facing charges for a DUI in Colorado, you need to hire an experienced DUI lawyer. Book a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney on our team. We can help you navigate the legal process and defend your DUI case in court so that your rights are ensured, and you are treated fairly.

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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