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The legal drinking age in the state of Colorado is 21 years old. However, it is not uncommon for people to have their first experience with alcohol well before then. While the law is not forgiving for drunk driving in any age group, underage drivers face stricter limitations. Drunk driving is a very serious offense, and the consequences of a conviction could potentially limit your future opportunities. If you or your loved one needs help with an underage drunk driving charge, contact us today at (303) 832-9000 or use our easy online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Under Colorado’s “zero tolerance” law, individuals under the age of 21 are prohibited from having any amount of alcohol or drugs in their system while operating a motor vehicle. Minors who drink and drive face three possible charges depending on their blood alcohol content (BAC), which is discovered by a breath and blood test in Denver.
A minor can be charged with Underage Drinking and Driving (UDD) for a BAC of as low as 0.02 percent to no more than 0.05percent within two hours of driving. A BAC of 0.02 percent can be achieved by ingesting as little as a single serving, meaning that a minor who has even one drink would probably be in violation of the state’s zero tolerance law.
The punishments for a UDD increase with each successive offense. Regardless of the number of offenses you may have incurred, you may be required to perform an alcohol evaluation and/or an alcohol education or treatment program at your expense. If you have had more than one offense, you are considered a habitual traffic offender in Colorado. A first time offense is considered a class A traffic infraction, which can carry the following penalties if you are convicted:
In the state of Colorado, a first-time conviction of a UDD is technically not considered a crime. Therefore, you may be able to obtain a probationary license after one month, with the probationary license lasting for the remainder of the suspension period. This permits you to drive for limited purposes, usually to and from work or school.
If you are charged with a second UDD, it is considered a class 2 traffic misdemeanor and can carry the following penalties:
Any subsequent UDD convictions after the second one are also classified as class 2 misdemeanors and will result in the penalties listed in this section, but with a 1-year suspension of your driver’s license.
If an underage driver has a BAC of 0.05 percent or higher, they will be prosecuted exactly as if they were an adult. If a minor’s BAC is between 0.05. percent and 0.08 percent, they could be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). A DWAI normally requires evidence that your driving was impaired. However, under Colorado’s “zero-tolerance” policy, minors are virtually prohibited from having any amount of alcohol in their system. Therefore, if you are a minor, you cannot use safe driving as a defense for a DWAI.
A first-time DWAI offense is considered a misdemeanor and can carry the following penalties upon conviction:
The penalties become more severe upon subsequent DWAI convictions. A second DWAI could result in the following consequences:
If a driver has a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, they will be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) per se, which is a misdemeanor for a first-time offense. The penalties for a first-time DUI conviction include between five days to one year in jail, a fine of between $600 and $1,000 , and a nine-month suspension of your license. Harsher penalties are carried out upon subsequent DUI convictions.
Having an experienced lawyer can help you defend against an underage DUI charge. Possible defenses against your charge can include the following:
As mentioned previously, it is not a valid defense to say that an underage driver was operating a vehicle without impairment due to Colorado’s “zero-tolerance” laws.
While the BAC limit for underage drivers may be lower than the reading for adults, it does not mean that the crime is any less serious. An underage DUI conviction, whether it be for a UDD, DWAI, or DUI can still pose genuine barriers for a teen’s education or employment future, especially if an instance of drunk driving involved property damage or bodily harm. If you facing an underage DUI charge, it is not impossible to defend against it. However, it is crucial that you have an experienced attorney who can represent you properly. Attorney Kevin Churchill has been handling underage DUI cases for more than 22 years and he thoroughly understands the law and how to defend you. If you or a loved one has been charged with a UDD, DWAI, or DUI, contact our experienced Denver underage DUI defense attorney today at (303) 832-9000 or use our easy online contact form to schedule a free consultation.