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When people think of driving under the influence, they often think of alcohol. The truth is that it’s not simply alcohol that can get you in trouble for a DUI in Colorado- other substances can lead to a DUI.

In reality, alcohol and other drugs that impair you in operating a motor vehicle, even legal substances, can cause you to break the law and get charged with a DUI. In some cases, even prescription medications can lead to DUI charges if you are under the influence when driving.

Colorado takes DUI charges seriously. You don’t want to inadvertently break the law or be unsafe driving on the roads when you should not. Read on to learn more about what substances besides alcohol can land you a DUI charge in Colorado.

Drugs in Colorado

The laws in Colorado define drugs to mean any controlled substance. This can include prescription drugs and even some over-the-counter medications. It also includes toxic vapors, glue, aerosol, or other inhalants. If it impairs your ability to drive, it can result in a driving under the influence charge in the state.

Drugs That Lead to DUI Charges

If you want to delve deeper into drugs that can impair your ability to drive, then here are some examples but not an exhaustive list:


Marijuana may be legal in Colorado medically and recreationally, but you still cannot operate a vehicle legally if you have more than five nanograms of THC in your bloodstream. Marijuana can cause the driver to be disoriented and have slow reaction times when driving. It may also alter a person’s perception of time and space, resulting in an accident. Even if you take marijuana for medical purposes,  you are not allowed to drive when you have a certain amount in your system.


Antidepressants help stabilize neurotransmitters in the brain and improve mood. But they can also cause effects that alter perceptions or cause drowsiness. Dizziness is another side effect that can make a person unsafe behind the wheel.

Illegal Drugs

Drugs That Lead to DUI Charges

Drugs such as cocaine, GHB, ketamine, LSD, MDMA, heroin, methamphetamines, PCP, opioids, and psilocybin can all cause a person to be unable to operate a vehicle. They impact the central nervous system and may slow responses while driving. This makes operating a vehicle dangerous.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Medications purchased without a prescription – like a cough and cold medications – can also make driving unsafe. They typically contain DXM and can cause drowsiness and slow reflexes, putting a person at risk behind the wheel of a car.

Prescriptions Meds

Medications prescribed by a doctor that impair your judgment can lead to a DUI. Some examples include pain medications such as opioids or medications such as tranquilizers and sedatives. Prescription stimulants can also make you unsafe behind the wheel.

How Do Police Know You Shouldn’t Be Driving?

In Colorado, someone charged with driving under the influence of drugs doesn’t have a solid legal limit of intoxication they go over like with alcohol, which is 0.08 percent.

Instead, a DUID in Colorado can get charged with any amount of a drug that intoxicates you. The exception stands for marijuana, which has a limit of five nanograms. If a police officer observes your inability to operate a vehicle safely, you will be charged.

The Penalties for DUID

Most of the time, DUIDs in Colorado will be misdemeanors. If you are found guilty, you can serve up to one year in jail, be ordered to complete community service, pay fines, and have your driver’s license revoked. You may sometimes get offered a suspended sentence if you successfully complete drug evaluation and treatment.

Sometimes a DUID will be prosecuted as a felony. This is the case if you have three or more convictions for DUI, DWI, or DUID in any state or a conviction for reckless driving, vehicular homicide, or vehicular assault.

The Penalties for DUID

The penalty for a felony DUID is up to six years of incarceration and fines of up to $500,000. You may also be required to complete a three-year sentence of parole after release from prison and lose your license.

If you’re facing DUID charges in Colorado,  call an experienced attorney to help guide you.



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 & 2019-2022” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2022 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020-2022. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.

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