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Drunk and Impaired Driving Laws in Colorado

Posted on August 10, 2016

If you’ve been accused of drunk driving or a drug crime, you know that you need to defend yourself. If you don’t, you could be accused and convicted of a crime with penalties that you may have otherwise avoided with a proper defense.

Colorado law prohibits the use of a vehicle when a person is drunk or under the influence of drugs. These offenses are known as driving under the influence and driving while ability impaired. A person is considered “under the influence” if they are impaired to the point that it affects their ability to drive safely. In Colorado, there are three categories of impaired driving: 

  • DUI: Driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. 
  • DWAI: Driving a vehicle while “ability impaired” by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. 
  • DUI per se: Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more. 

The primary ways to enforce the law is to test the person accused of the DUI or DWAI with blood or breath tests. While marijuana is legal in the state, you can still be accused of driving impaired with it in your system. For marijuana impairment, the user’s blood must contain 5 or more nanograms of Delta-9 THC to be considered impaired, although this is just an inference and not solid proof.

Alcohol-Related Offenses Penalties

If a driver is arrested due to an alcohol-related offense, they can face the following penalties:

DUI:

  • Minimum of 20 days in jail and up to one year
  • $600 to $1,000 in fines
  • 9-month license suspension
  • 48 to 96 hours of community service
  • 12 DMV points
  • Mandatory alcohol treatment program
  • Possible probation of up to 2 years

DWAI:

  • Between 2 to 180 days in jail
  • $200 to $500 in fines
  • 24 to 48 hours of community service
  • 8 DMV points

People with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher may be subjected to higher penalties, which is something to consider if you’ve been found with a particularly high BAC. Additionally, drivers under the age of 21 driving with a 0.2% BAC can also face a DUI or DWAI charge.

The reduction of penalties is possible in a few ways. A plea bargain is one. Another is to agree to alcohol or drug treatment. Trying to show that there was no reason to suspect you of drunk driving or impairment may also help your case; your attorney can help you learn more about your options.

Colorado’s Express Consent Law

In Colorado, the law presumes that every driver has given permission for urine, saliva, blood or breath tests when asked to provide one by a law enforcement officer. The officer must have probably cause. If you refuse to take a test when requested, you could lose your license and have it submitted as evidence against you in court.

Colorado Drug Offense Laws

Manufacturing, possessing, selling, or using controlled substances in Colorado is a crime.

Illegal Drugs in Colorado

Drugs are divided into five categories known as schedules, which cannot be legally consumed or possessed recreationally. Here is a partial list of the drugs most commonly involved in crimes.

  • Schedule I — Heroin, LSD
  • Schedule II — Codeine, Methamphetamine, Opium
  • Schedule III — Anabolic steroids, Ketamine, Hydrocodone
  • Schedule IV — Lorazepam
  • Schedule V — Buprenorphine

The drugs in Schedule I have the highest potential for abuse and the user developing physical or psychological dependence. Additionally, the possession of more than two ounces of marijuana, or any amount, by individuals under 21 (unless medical) is a crime.

Drug Crime Penalties in Colorado

Drug-related offenses are broken down into Drug Misdemeanors (DM) and Drug Felonies (DF). Each category is further divided into “levels” that carry the following potential penalties:

Level Sentence
DM1 Minimum: 6 months imprisonment, $500 fine, or both
Maximum: 18 months imprisonment, $5,000 fine, or both
DM2 Minimum: $50 fine
Maximum: 12 months imprisonment, $5,000 fine, or both
DF1 Presumptive: 8 to 32 years imprisonment, $5,000 to $1 million fine, or both
Mandatory Parole: 3 years
DF2 Presumptive: 4 to 8 years imprisonment, $3,000 to $750,000 fine, or both
Aggravated: 8 to 16 years imprisonment, $3,000 to $750,000 fine, or both
Mandatory Parole: 2 years
DF3 Presumptive: 2 to 4 years imprisonment, $2000 to $500,000 fine, or both
Aggravated: 4 to 6 years imprisonment, $2,000 to $500,000 fine, or both
Mandatory Parole: 1 year
DF4 Presumptive: 6 months to 1 year imprisonment, $1,000 to $100,000 fine, or both
Aggravated: 1 to 2 years imprisonment, $1,000 to $100,000 fine, or both
Mandatory Parole: 1 year

Source: Office of Legislative Legal Services, “Law Summary: Colorado Drunk Driving Laws,” accessed Aug. 10, 2016

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