Serving Clients Since 1986
The Decisions You Make Today
Will Impact Your Family's Future
Let Us Help You Make the Right Ones

What Are the Differences Between DWAI, DUI, and DUI-D Charges in Colorado?

Latest News

What is the Importance of Understanding the Different Categories of Impaired Driving Charges in Colorado?

In Colorado, the legal landscape for impaired driving is defined by three primary charges: Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), and Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUI-D). Each charge has distinct legal thresholds, penalties, and implications, reflecting the state’s commitment to road safety while acknowledging varying degrees of impairment. For defendants, the details of their specific charge will inform their defense strategies and influence the legal and administrative ramifications they could face upon conviction. A helpful DUI defense attorney can outline the nature of the charges against you and provide guidance as you navigate the legal process.

What Are the Definitions and Legal Thresholds for Each Type of Charge?

Under Colorado statutes, a DUI is a severe charge that applies when a driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. This measure aligns with the national standard for significant impairment. DUI charges can also be based on observed behavior and field sobriety tests, indicating that the driver is substantially incapable of safely operating a vehicle due to alcohol or drug intoxication.

A DUI-D charge is a subset of DUI that specifically addresses impairment due to drugs. These charges can involve any type of drug, including illegal substances, prescription medications, marijuana, and even over-the-counter medicines that can impair driving ability. An officer may arrest a driver for DUI-D if they notice behaviors that make them believe the individual has drugs in their system and is unable to exercise clear judgment or is physically or mentally incapable of maintaining safe control of their vehicle. Typically, blood will be drawn following the arrest to test for the presence of drugs, which can bolster the officer’s observations.

On the other hand, DWAI is a lesser charge that applies when a driver’s BAC is between 0.05% and 0.079%. Unlike DUI, DWAI focuses on any impairment that affects the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely, even to the slightest degree. This charge can be based on the officer’s discretion and observed signs of impairment, making it a more subjective assessment compared to the more stringent BAC threshold for DUI.

What Are the Potential Consequences for a Conviction on These Charges?

The penalties for DUI, DWAI, and DUI-D vary significantly, reflecting the different levels of impairment and risk associated with each charge. The penalties for a first-time DUI offense include five days to one year in jail, fines ranging from $600 to $1,000, up to two years of probation, 48 to 96 hours of community service, and a driver’s license suspension of up to nine months. Repeat offenses lead to increased penalties, including longer jail time, higher fines, and extended license suspensions.

Additionally, multiple DUI convictions, a BAC of 0.15% or higher, or a refusal to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test can result in a “Persistent Drunk Driver” (PDD) designation. These individuals must install a mandatory ignition interlock system on their vehicle for two years as a condition of reinstating their license. In addition to facing harsher criminal consequences, those designated as PDDs must also complete community service and attend an approved alcohol education and therapy course.

The penalties for a first-time DWAI offense are less severe but still significant: two to 180 days in jail, fines between $200 and $500, 24 to 48 hours of community service, and up to two years of probation. Unlike DUI, a first-time DWAI does not automatically result in a driver’s license suspension but does add eight points to the driver’s license. Repeat DWAI offenses can escalate to penalties similar to those for DUI, including potential felony charges if the driver has multiple prior convictions.

How Has Colorado’s Legalization of Marijuana Impacted Laws Governing Impaired Driving?

Marijuana legalization has introduced specific challenges for law enforcement officials tasked with implementing DUI and DWAI laws.

While the recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado, driving under its influence is not. The state has set an inference of impairment at five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. However, prosecutors must still demonstrate that the driver was substantially incapable of operating a vehicle safely. These cases can be complex and controversial because THC affects individuals differently, and its presence in the bloodstream may not correlate with impairment or recent use. As a result, DUI-D cases often rely heavily on observed behavior and field sobriety tests, similar to alcohol-related DUI cases.

Why is Obtaining Legal Representation Vital?

Given the complexities and severe consequences of DUI, DWAI, and DUI-D charges, consulting with a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible following your arrest is recommended. An experienced attorney profoundly understands the intricacies of the state’s laws. They can call into question the evidence presented and potentially leverage the differences between the various impairment charges to their client’s advantage. These challenges can lead to the exclusion of key evidence, potentially resulting in reduced charges or even a dismissal of the case.

As part of a tailored defense strategy, your lawyer may:

  • Question the accuracy of BAC or THC tests.
  • Dispute the validity of the officer’s field observations.
  • Assert that the police had no probable cause to initiate the traffic stop.
  • Identify procedural errors that may have occurred during the arrest or testing process.

What Can Our Law Firm Do For You?

Facing a DUI, DUI-D, or DWAI charge can be an incredibly emotional and overwhelming experience. The fear, uncertainty, and awareness of the devastating impact the potential consequences could have on your future can take a heavy toll, leaving you feeling lost and anxious. At Liberty Law Center, our experienced attorneys understand the gravity of these emotions and will treat your case with the utmost care and compassion.

Our attorneys guide you through each step, explaining the process in clear, understandable terms and ensuring you are well-informed about your options and the potential penalties. We will be your unwavering advocate, tirelessly working to protect your rights and build the most robust possible defense strategy. To request a free consultation to discuss your case, contact our law office today at 719-602-7381.

Related Articles