DUI, DWAI & Intoxicated Driving

"DUI" stands for "Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol" or in other words driving while intoxicated or drunk.

It is not illegal in Colorado to drive after consuming alcohol; it is illegal, however, to drive after consuming alcohol, if that person consumed sufficient alcohol to cause that person's ability to drive safely to be substantially affected (the essence of DUI) or even to be affected in the slightest degree (the essence of DWAI).

DUI can be charged in two different ways in Colorado. First, what is familiarly known as "DUI Per Se," and also known as "driving with excessive alcohol content." This means a person drove a motor vehicle while their BAC (blood alcohol content) registered a .08 or higher. The second way it can be charged is as a simple "DUI," which means a person drove a motor vehicle while their ability to drive safely was substantially affected by alcohol, regardless of the BAC.

The reason there are two different ways to charge DUI, is because sometimes a person does not take a breath or blood test after that person is arrested. If a person does not take a breath or blood test, then this person can only be charged with a simple DUI, and not a "DUI Per Se."

In the old days I as a Deputy District Attorney was required prior to trial to choose to proceed with only one of the above DUI's, if a person was charged with both. Today, however, the Judge will usually allow the prosecutor to proceed on both charges, and if the person is convicted of either charge, then the Judge will sentence that person on only one conviction. The Judge does not want to run afoul of our constitutional rights to be protected against double jeopardy.

DWAI refers to "driving while a person's ability is impaired by alcohol." "Impaired" means a person's BAC (blood alcohol content) is either above .05 and below .08, or their ability to drive safely has been affected in the slightest degree by alcohol.

Again if a person does not take a breath or blood test after he or she is arrested, then the prosecution must rely upon other evidence to try to prove this charge of DWAI in Court. The other evidence the prosecutor can rely on includes the following: admission or confession by the person to drinking alcohol, beer cans or bottles seen in the vehicle by the law enforcement officer, smell of alcohol on the person's breath, inability to successfully perform roadside sobriety maneuvers, such as walking a straight line or saying the alphabet, and bad driving, such as weaving over the traffic lines or on to the shoulder of the highway or failing to stop at a red light or stop sign.

The prosecution does not need a breath or blood test to prove either a DUI or a DWAI. There is always other evidence the prosecution can rely on. It is a common misunderstanding that if the prosecution does not have a test of the person's consumption of alcohol, then the prosecution cannot prove a DUI or DWAI. Not so.

A DUI conviction results in receiving twelve (12) points on your driver's licence, while a DWAI conviction results in receiving eight (8) points on your driver's license. In Colorado if a person receives twelve (12) points within twelve (12) months, or eighteen (18) points within twenty-four (24) months, then that person's driver's license will be suspended.

Also a person who receives a DUI conviction faces up to one (1) year in Jail, a fine of up to $1,000.00, or both such fine and imprisonment, as well as 48 to 96 hours of useful public service, also known as community service, and a specified amount of alcohol classes and treatment. The amount of alcohol classes and treatment is up to the probation officer who will complete an alcohol evaluation after an interview with the person charged.

A person who receives a DWAI conviction faces up to 180 days in Jail, a fine of up to $500.00, or both such fine and imprisonment, as well as 24 to 48 hours of useful public service, also known as community service, and a specified amount of alcohol classes and treatment. The amount of alcohol classes and treatment is up to the probation officer who will complete an alcohol evaluation after an interview with the person charged.

You may look up Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) Title 42, Article 4, Section 1301, for further information, as well as Title 42, Article 2, Section 127.