The difference between DUI and DWAI in Colorado

A driver in Colorado may be subject to administrative and criminal penalties for drunk driving even with a blood alcohol content below 0.08 percent.

Drunk driving is a term that most Colorado residents are familiar with. However, there is not simply one definition of drunk driving. Colorado law actually recognizes two different types of charges related to operating vehicles after consuming alcohol.

What is DUI?

When most people think about drunk driving, they probably think about DUI. This charge refers to driving under the influence of alcohol. It may also apply to people who drive after using drugs. A DUI charge may result if a driver's blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher.

What is DWAI?

What some people may not know is that even driving with a BAC below 0.08 percent may result in a drunk driving charge. A driver with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.07 percent may be charged with driving while ability impaired. This is a slightly lesser charge than a DUI but still potentially includes both administrative and criminal penalties.

What are the penalties for a DUI?

First, second and third DUIs are treated as misdemeanors but fourth or subsequent convictions may lead to felony charges. For a first offense, a driver may spend between five and 365 days in jail, pay a fine up to $1,000, have 12 points added to a driving record and serve a nine-month license suspension.

The use of an ignition interlock device may allow the person to reinstate driving privileges sooner. The IID may be required for eight months if the BAC was between 0.08 and 0.14 percent or for 24 months if higher than that. With each subsequent conviction, the penalties may become more severe.

What are the penalties for a DWAI?

As with a DUI, a first, second or third DWAI is a misdemeanor offense in Colorado with subsequent offenses treated as felonies. A first DWAI may send a person to jail for two to 180 days, add eight points to a driving record and fine the driver up to $500. There is no license suspension period for a first DWAI. However, for a second and third DWAI, loss of driving privileges will be added to the other penalties which also become more severe with each conviction.

What other consequences may I face for a DUI or a DWAI?

Criminal fines are just one way that a DUI or a DWAI can cost drivers financially. The Colorado Department of Transportation explains that vehicles may be impounded resulting in towing and storage fees. People may also have to pay for detox facility stays, bail, alcohol treatment and education, license reinstatement, court costs and all costs associated with installing and maintaining an ignition interlock device.

What should I do if I am arrested for a DUI or DWAI?

The legal ramifications of a DWAI or a DUI arrest in Colorado can last for a long time and even include a criminal record. It is important that anyone in this situation contact an attorney promptly for help navigating the defense process.