During New Year’s Eve, it’s easy to get caught up in celebration. Everyone is having a good time and drinking more than they normally do. It’s easy to do the same!
That said, law enforcement officials are aware that people tend to let loose this time of year, and they take measures to crack down on people driving illegally.
If you were caught in Colorado’s annual New Year’s DUI crackdown, you might be asking yourself what’s next. The simple answer is: It depends on the exact charge.
Colorado’s Annual New Year’s DUI Enforcement Efforts
In Colorado, statewide DUI enforcement is ramped up from December 27th through January 2nd. They chose this full week because these are the dates that are traditionally the most celebrated for New Year’s.
Almost every county and law enforcement agency increased DUI patrols during that period which included assigning additional officers to the roads.
This means that even if you weren’t celebrating this year, you were more likely to get pulled over for a DUI check than any other time over the holiday season.
The Consequences of a Colorado DUI Charge
No one wants a DUI charge, but sometimes they happen. There are three levels of penalty for DUI charges, and there are other factors that can aggravate them. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, your legal history will also affect you.
Let’s take a closer look at the individual charges related to a Colorado DUI…
Driving While Ability Impaired
If you are under the legal limit for alcohol consumption, but you are driving poorly, you may be charged for “driving while ability-impaired (also known as a DWAI).
A DWAI conviction doesn’t result in any suspension of your license, but it does take 8 points off your license. That’s a significant portion of the way to earning a suspended license.
Furthermore, it’s a misdemeanor that can result in a $500 fine, up to 6 months in jail, and 48 hours of community service, all at the judge’s discretion.
A First-Offense DUI
For your first DUI, you can receive a license suspension of up to 9 months, as well as 12 points off your license. Even after the suspension is over, those points aren’t immediately returned.
Instead, they remain a part of your deductions over a period of time. So while earning a 12-point deduction over 12 months results in license suspension, losing 18 points in a 24-month period does too.
A first DUI is also a misdemeanor, but your fine can double that of a DWAI, and the maximum jail sentence is a year. A judge may also order up to 96 hours of community service.
A Colorado DUI (or DWAI), Your Second Offense
Your second DUI conviction can result in up to a 12-month license suspension, and 12 points off your license. A second DWAI conviction will take eight points on your license. The criminal penalties for this misdemeanor include up to a year in jail, $1500 in fines, and 120 hours of community service.
Your Third DUI and DWAI Offenses Are a Felony Charge
Two prior DWAI or DUI convictions make the third a Class 4 felony. This can result in up to six years in prison, three years parole, and 120 hours of community service, depending on the judge. It also can result in up to 24 months of license suspension and 8 or 12 points off your license, for DWAI and DUI respectively.
Aggravating Factors Can Increase Your Penalties Further
There are several aggravating factors that could result in harsher penalties for you. If you are under 21 or under 18, for instance, the total points required to suspend your license is lower. You can also receive higher penalties for having a BAC over .15. Then you’re classified as a “persistent drunk driver.”
What to Do If You Have a Pending DUI Charge in Colorado
Getting a DUI charge doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be convicted. There are a number of things you can do to either decrease your penalties or potentially avoid a conviction altogether.
Take the Chemical Test
Once you have been arrested, regardless of your field sobriety results, take the chemical test. It shows your current BAC much more accurately than field methods. This may result in being charged with a DWAI instead of a DUI. This will lower the total points taken off your license.
Enroll in a Drunk Driving Course
Look into drunk driving schools. There are multiple classes available that can potentially be substituted for parts of a DUI sentence.
Find an Experienced Colorado DUI Attorney
Contact a lawyer who specializes in DUI charges. A lawyer with a specialty will help you to avoid making any mistakes with your case, and that can be the difference between a conviction or a dismissal.
Don’t Drive Drunk Again
Finally, avoid driving intoxicated again. A single DUI has much lower penalties than second or third offenses. A judge is likely to give much stricter sentences if you have multiple charges in a short timeframe.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.