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Is jail time mandatory for a Colorado DUI?

Posted on September 25, 2020

The state of Colorado administers heavy punishments for drunk driving. Residents and visitors who drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs face several potential penalties like fines and even jail time.

However, very few first-time DUI offenders spend time in jail. Judges examine the nature, circumstances and severity of the charge and injury caused. Those facing a DUI charge in Colorado for the first time will find more success in avoiding jail alongside a local attorney.

Potential penalties for a first-time DUI

Colorado law supports three different categories for impaired driving offenses:

  • DUI: A blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more will result in a DUI charge.
  • DWAI: If you operate a vehicle with a BAC between .05 and .08, you will incur a driving while ability impaired (DWAI) charge.
  • DUI per se: Even “sleeping one off” in a parking lot can incur a DUI per se charge. Simply being behind the wheel can put you in “actual physical control” of the car and in violation of the law.

Whether you’re a resident of or just visiting the Centennial State, the same penalties will apply for a first-time DUI offense:

  • DUI: Penalties may include between five days and one year in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, nine months of a revoked license, eight months with an ignition interlock device (IID), and up to 96 hours of community service.
  • DWAI: If you commit a DWAI, you’ll face up to 180 days in jail, $500 in fines and up to 48 hours of community service.
  • DUI per se: Per se penalties include up to a year in jail, fines totaling $1,000, license revocation lasting nine months, eight months with an IID, and community service for up to 96 hours.

Alternatives to jail

Those facing a DUI charge stand a better chance at avoiding those minimum jail times working alongside a local attorney familiar with Colorado’s DUI laws. A lawyer can help you understand the charges and the legal options available.

An attorney can help build a solid defense to convince a judge to lessen the sentence. Alternatives to jail may include electronic monitoring, Colorado’s Home Detention program, work-release or work-crew programs, or pleading guilty to a lesser charge. A lawyer will offer counsel on your case and recommend the best path forward.