free consultation
Experienced & Affordable DUI Defense for the Denver Metro Area

Can a DUI Be a Felony?

Get Your Free Consultation
denver dui felony attorney

You can be charged with a felony DUI in Denver if you’re intoxicated or impaired while driving under certain circumstances. You should take every criminal charge seriously, but if you face felony charges, there should be no doubt in your mind that you need to get a criminal defense lawyer’s help. 

Misdemeanors are crimes carrying prison sentences of up to a year. A felony is a crime where the sentence could be more than a year. There are also many legal and practical consequences of a felony conviction beyond serving prison time. You may pay thousands of dollars in fines, you may need to disclose your conviction when applying for jobs, and it will affect your ability to vote and legally own a firearm. 

What Does Colorado Statute Say? 

Colorado’s statute covering DUI states in part: 

“A person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle under the influence of alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, commits driving under the influence (DUI)…it is a class 4 felony if the violation occurred after three or more prior convictions, arising out of separate and distinct criminal episodes, for DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI; vehicular homicide…vehicular assault…or any combination thereof.” 

The next section of the statute is identical, but it states the consequences apply to someone convicted of driving while ability impaired as well. 

To translate this into English, the following are the definitions for the related terms: 

  • DUI can be charged when you’re “substantially incapable,” mentally and/or physically, of safely operating a vehicle 
  • Driving while ability impaired (DWAI) is the same situation, but the impairment is “to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been” physically and/or mentally to operate the vehicle safely. This is usually charged if you’re driving a vehicle and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests between 0.05% and 0.08% 
  • DUI per se means that your BAC tested at 0.08% or higher 
  • Vehicular homicide is driving a vehicle recklessly or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and causing a fatal accident  
  • Vehicular assault is the same, but a severe bodily injury, not death, is caused 

Call our office if you’re arrested after having this many DUI or DWAI convictions or are involved in an accident where someone is seriously injured or killed. Your future, and your family’s future, is at risk. 

How This Works 

Unlike other states, in Colorado, it doesn’t matter when your past DUI/DWAI convictions occurred. If you’ve been convicted of DUI/DWAI three times, you could face a felony charge. 

A DUI/DWAI-related vehicular assault charge doesn’t consider whether or not you’ve had past convictions. The injury suffered would need to be something like:  

  • A serious, permanent disfigurement 
  • Lost bodily or organ function 
  • Broken bones or fractures 
  • Second or third-degree burns 

If someone is fatally injured in an accident you caused, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. The person’s death need not be at the scene. The crash-related injury could cause their death later. 

Possible Sentences for a Felony DUI 

If this could be your fourth DUI/DWAI conviction or someone was seriously hurt, a conviction could lead to:  

  • A fine between $2,000 and $500,000 
  • Two to six years in state prison and parole of three years 
  • If you’re put on probation, you must serve jail time of 90 to 180 or 120 days to two years if you’re in an alternative sentencing program 
  • Engaging in 48 to 120 hours of community service 
  • Attending level II alcohol and drug classes (24 hours of DUI education over 12 weeks) 

If you’re charged with vehicular homicide, the potential penalties are: 

  • A fine from $3,000 to $750,000 
  • A prison sentence of four to 12 years and mandatory parole of five years 

Before sentencing you to prison time, the judge must decide incarceration is the most suitable option given: 

  • The facts of your case 
  • Your willingness to participate in substance abuse treatment 
  • All other reasonable and appropriate responses to the violation have been exhausted and don’t appear likely to succeed if they are attempted 
  • Whether you present an unacceptable risk to public safety 

If you’re in this situation, you need an experienced defense attorney who can put you in a position to get the best outcome possible. That could be your charges being dismissed, a favorable plea bargain agreement, or a conviction with the least severe sentence.  

Contact Churchill DUI Defense Today 

Churchill DUI Defense has defended clients like you against felony DUI charges for over two decades. We will do everything we can to protect your rights, freedom, and future. Schedule a free consultation by calling us at (303) 832-9000 or filling out our online contact form today.