Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is defined as the crime of driving a motor vehicle with blood levels of alcohol in excess of a legal limit. Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), a similar crime, is defined as driving motor vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or drugs, or a combination of, which affects that person so that he/she is less able than ordinarily would have been to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care. The state of Colorado refers to both of these offenses with the umbrella term “drunk driving”.
The legal limit in most jurisdictions for a DUI, including the state of Colorado, is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. The legal limit for a DWUI is 0.05% or higher, but less than 0.08%. However, the limits are lower for young drivers: for someone under 21 years of age, the BAC limit is 0.02%. Additionally, some jurisdictions have an aggravated category for higher BAC levels (typically 0.12% or higher).
Similar regulations also cover driving or operating certain types of machinery while affected by consuming drugs or alcohol. Moreover, certain occupations may have a separate BAC level. For example, the BAC for commercial drivers is 0.04%. Additionally, companies can set their own “in-house” rules so that if BAC levels higher than their regulations are found after random testing or an accident, then appropriate measures can be taken. For example, the Union Pacific Railroad has set a BAC of 0.02%.
Driving Under the Influence is a criminal offense. There are several things that can happen when you’ve been convicted of a DUI (or DWUI), and they can vary based on age and driving record:
The first thing that will happen if you are pulled over and your BAC is over the legal limit (or you refuse to take the test for BAC) is your license will be revoked by the DMV, regardless of a criminal court conviction. After this you have seven days to request a hearing. Further, all states have zero tolerance laws for drivers under 21: their license will automatically be suspended if found to have any detectable alcohol in their bloodstream. Suspension or loss of license can also result in a loss of vehicle license plates and the vehicle itself. Additionally, your insurance rates are likely to increase, and you may also find your insurance declared invalid, meaning you are fully responsible for the cost of all damages incurred due to a DUI accident.
A DUI First Offense can result in several things: license revocation for 9 months; a fine of $600-$1000; up to 96 hours of community service; alcohol education; and up to one year in jail. A DWUI First Offense can result in the following: 8 points toward license suspension; a fine of $200-$500; up to 48 hours community service; and up to 180 days in jail.
If you are under 18 years of age and get 8 points added to your license due to a DWUI, this will automatically suspend your license. If you are between 18 and 20 years of age, between 9 and 14 points are needed to have your license suspended. If you are 21 or older you need 12 or 18 points, depending on timeframe, for license suspension.
You may be sentenced to take an alcohol education course. However, even if you are not required to, Colorado law does require alcohol education courses be taken in order to get a reinstated license. If you do get your license reinstated, you may also be required to install an Interlock Ignition Device (IID). An IID is similar to a Breathalyzer, and it is connected to the vehicle dashboard. It requires the driver breath into the device prior to starting the vehicle; if any blood alcohol concentration is detected the engine will not start.
All prior DUIs and DWUIs are relevant for sentencing in Colorado. Second and third offenses for both DUIs and DWAIs have harsher penalties. A second or third offense for either can include a fine of up to $1500, up to one year of jail time, and an (IID). A second offense will likely also include a one year license suspension, and a third offense a two year license suspension.
Another consequence that can result from a convicted DUI is that you may lose your job, or have difficulty finding a job. DUIs are a criminal offense, and so will show up when an employer or potential employer does a criminal record check. Because all prior DUIs are relevant for sentencing, your conviction will stay on your record for good.
If someone dies due to drunk driving, you can be charged with the felony of vehicular manslaughter and be given up to 24 years in jail. The average range is up to 12 years, but if aggravated can then go up to 24.
The consequences of a Driving Under the Influence conviction are serious and multiple. Having any type of DUI or DWUI conviction on your record will follow you for the rest of your life and amass severe consequences both immediate and long term.