Drunk driving laws in Colorado are similar to other DUI laws in the United States, except Colorado has an additional charge known as Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). Driving while ability impaired is defined as driving a vehicle after consuming alcohol, drug(s), or a combination of both, that slightly affects the person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, exercise clear judgment, and lose sufficient physical control while driving.
To be convicted of a DWAI your BAC can be as little as .05% to just under .08%. A DWAI charge in Colorado makes it illegal to drive with a lower blood alcohol concentration level than most states where conviction starts at a BAC of .08%.
Drunk driving offenses in Colorado
• DUI (Driving Under the Influence) BAC of .08% or higher
• DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) BAC of .05% BAC or higher (but less than .08% BAC)
A first drunk driving offense in Colorado can result in fines between $300 and $1000, 5 days to 1 year in prison in addition to mandatory public service and your license being revoked for up to 1 year.
How many drinks can I have before I risk being convicted of a DWAI in Colorado? The answer to that isn't a clear one. A person's age, weight, gender, if they've eaten, and time passed after consuming the alcohol all play a factor in blood alcohol levels. What makes one person legally drunk, isn't always the case with another individual or the same person on another day. Be aware, since you can be convicted of a DWAI for a BAC as little as .05% that means it takes very little alcohol to be considered legally drunk in Colorado.
Is a DWAI in Colorado a criminal charge?
Yes, a DWAI is considered a criminal misdemeanor. Although DWAI penalties are not as hefty as the penalties associated with a DUI. The punishment could come in the form of monetary fines, prison time, or both depending on the circumstances. In addition, your license may be suspended and eight points will be added to your driving record which increases your insurance premium. Being convicted of a DWAI will count against you if you are convicted of subsequent drunk driving offenses and any penalties will be harsher since you are a repeat offender. Also of note, a DWAI charge can show up on a criminal or background check.
Penalties for the first DWAI • Jail time between 2 days and 180 days.
• Fines - $200 to $500.
• Community service - 24 to 48 hours.
• Loss of your driver's license.
• Mandatory drug or alcohol counseling.
Colorado Express Consent Law
Colorado's express consent law is similar to other states. Basically it means that as a driver in Colorado you automatically agree to take a chemical test of your breath, urine and blood if suspected of impaired driving. If you refuse such a test it's seen as an admition of guilt and your drivers license can be revoked for a period of 1 year.
A second chemical test refusal will result in license suspension for 2 years. After 1 year you become eligible for an ignition interlock device and a restricted license. A third refusal suspends your license for 3 years and a right to request a restricted license after 1 year with an ignition interlock device.
Interlock Ignition Device
If you've been convicted of a drunk driving offense, once your license is reinstated an ignition interlock device (IID) may be mandatory and installed in your vehicle in order for you drive.
An ignition interlock device is a mechanism, like a breathalyzer, installed on a motor vehicle's dashboard which prohibits the vehicle from starting until the driver exhales into the device to measure their BAC. If the breath-alcohol concentration analyzed is greater than the accepted blood alcohol concentration the device prevents the engine from being started.
The way an ignition interlock works is it interrupts the signal from the ignition to the starter until a valid breath sample is provided by the driver. At random times after the engine has been started, the IID will require additional breath samples. This prevents someone else from providing a sample for the offender and ensures accurate readings.
Whatever the results, the ignition interlock device will log the readings for reference and be used in court if you violate the system. If your BAC is not within legal guidelines, the device will sound an alarm until the ignition is turned off or a clean breath sample has been provided. A common misconception is that interlock devices will automatically kill the engine if alcohol is detected. That is simply not true for it would create an unsafe driving situation. The best thing to do it pull over and stop the car as soon possible.
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