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What is the Difference Between a DWAI, DUI, and a DUI-D?

It is important to understand the difference between DWAI, DUI, and DUI-D and the specific penalties associated with each offense.

December 28, 2022

To reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents, injuries, and deaths, Colorado takes driving under the influence seriously. Driving while ability impaired (DWAI), driving under the influence (DUI), and driving under the influence of drugs (DUI-D) can negatively affect your life and reputation.

If you're convicted of any of these, it can impact your auto insurance rates, and you could face jail time, fines, and license suspension. For these reasons, it is important to understand the difference between DWAI, DUI, and DUI-D and the specific penalties associated with each offense.

What is a DWAI in Colorado?

Driving while ability impaired (DWAI) refers to driving a motor vehicle while your ability is impaired by drugs or alcohol. The difference between DWAI and DUI is severity. A driver can be arrested and convicted of DWAI if their ability is impaired to the slightest degree. Impaired to the slightest degree means that the driver is mentally or physically incapable of making clear judgments to operate a motor vehicle safely. You can be arrested and convicted of this charge even if you are below the legal limit of .08. 

What is a DUI in Colorado?

In Colorado, a DUI offense occurs when a driver operates a vehicle when they are “substantially incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle due to the presence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both.” What this means is if you have alcohol in your bloodstream, you are legally prohibited from operating a motor vehicle if your BAC (blood alcohol content) is above 0.08%. Typically, a breathalyzer or blood test will determine whether a driver is charged with DUI or DWAI. Most drugs require a blood test to confirm them and whether or not they could affect your ability to drive a car. 

When you get a DUI in Colorado, some possible penalties include license suspension, jail time, public service, ignition interlock device (IID), or fines. The court will also impose a period of probation, where you could be supervised or not at the court discretion. 

What is a DUI-D in Colorado?

In Colorado, if a driver is accused of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs only (usually Marijuana), they can face a DUI-D charge. Remember, the drugs involved do not have to be illegal; they can be prescription drugs, OTC (over-the-counter medications), or narcotics. By taking any of these drugs, you are at risk of being incapable of driving safely. 

The most common drug involved in a DUI-D is Marijuana. Whether you use recreationally or have a valid, active medical card, you can still be charged if the officer suspects you have consumed marijuana during or before operating your motor vehicle. 

Consequences of DUI-D vs. DWAI?

Although the DUI charge is more serious than DWAI, the two can still have similar consequences. The ramifications of impaired driving will remain on your driving record years after the incident. Apart from facing up to one year in jail, your first DUI conviction can attract a fine of up to a $1,000, 48 to 96 community service hours, and a driver's license revocation. However, your first DWAI conviction carries a fine of up to $500, 24 to 48 community service hours, and up to 180 days in jail.

Get Help From our Colorado Springs DUI Attorneys Today

If you are facing a DWAI, DUI, or DUI-D charge, Liberty Law Center can help. Our DUI defense lawyers can help you reduce or evade drunk driving charges and potential penalties. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Practice Area:   
DUI

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