If you’re arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence in Colorado, you need to be aware of the many complex aspects that comprise how the law works in this state. Charges, sentencing, and punishment can be complex. It will behoove you to understand your role in the process.
Here is what you need to know about laws and penalties for DUIs in Colorado. We’ll address “express consent” as it pertains to DUIs and the general process you’ll follow in the criminal justice system.
Colorado DUI Laws and Penalties
In Colorado, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Even if your blood alcohol level falls below the legal limit of 0.08 percent, if the officer can observe visible impairment, it’s a crime.
The penalties depend on your DUI criminal history. With each offense, they become more severe.
For a First DUI
A misdemeanor crime, it can be punished by only five days in jail, up to 12 months. You may be responsible for fines as high as $1,000.
The sentence might mandate community service hours—as many as 96. Your driver’s license could be docked points, which puts you on the path to suspension. Other possible requirements: an alcohol education class and two years probation.
The second DUI remains a misdemeanor. It can land you in jail for up to 12 months, too, but with a different minimum, 10 days behind bars.
You may also be responsible for:
- Fines up to $1,500
- Up to 120 hours of community service
- License suspension for one year
When you can drive again, you might be required to install an ignition interlock device in your car.
This offense is still a misdemeanor but with more severe penalties. You may have to serve between 60 days and 12 months in jail. Fines carry a similar cap of $1500.
The community service requirement is similar, 120 hours. License suspension lasts longer, for two years, with usage of an ignition interlock device two years after reinstatement.
The state might classify you as a persistent drunk driver in several instances:
- If convicted of two or more alcohol-related driving violations
- If you have been caught driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher
- If you refuse to take a blood alcohol test
Those labeled “persistent drunk drivers” must partake in alcohol education, therapy, and an interlock ignition device for a minimum of two years.
All About Express Consent in CO
Express consent is a vital concept in DUI cases. The Colorado express consent law states that you imply or express consent to chemical tests when driving. This encompasses blood alcohol level tests at a traffic stop.
Under the law, simply having a driver’s license means that you’ve consented to reasonable tests for drugs or alcohol if you are pulled over by police. They need to have the probable cause to administer it.
You can refuse, but in doing so, you open yourself to significant consequences – even if you aren’t ultimately convicted of a DUI.
If you refuse a chemical test, you will be handed an Express Consent Affidavit and Notice of Revocation. Your driver’s license will be automatically revoked unless you request a hearing within seven days of receiving the notice. You do so by contacting the DMV in writing.
The Process of DUI Court Hearings
When arrested for a DUI, you have begun a criminal court system process that must be followed to the end.
If your blood alcohol level exceeded the legal limit, your license will be revoked. You can request a hearing.
A DMV hearing is like a simplified version of a court trial. The state makes a case against you, and an attorney defends you.
During this hearing, you might challenge the police’s validity for the traffic stop. Your attorney might also question probable cause for arrest.
A successful DMV hearing means you get to keep your license for the time being. But later, if the DUI conviction stands in criminal court, your license will be suspended.
In the next step, the DUI arraignment, charges are read against you. The judge advises on your rights as well as the penalties faced. At this time, you plead guilty or not guilty.
In many cases, you may be offered a plea deal. You can refuse the deal and go to trial, where you will receive the final verdict of guilty or not guilty.
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” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 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. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.