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What Are Colorado’s DUI Laws?

It is against the law to drive “under the influence.” It is not, however, against the law to drive after consuming a small amount of alcohol. Colorado DUI law defines the difference between the two. Whether you are legally under the influence, or are within acceptable bounds, is determined by two separate DUI statutes.

Under the Influence – DWAI

One DUI statute defines being “under the influence” as the point at which your ability to drive is impaired “to a substantial degree.” The other statute defines under the influence as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater while driving. In DWAI cases, impairment is defined as impairment “to the slightest degree.” The mere presence of some alcohol in your system does not make you guilty of DUI. In fact, if a blood alcohol test reveals a result of 0.049 or lower, you will be presumed not guilty of any alcohol driving offense. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot be convicted of a crime. You can still be convicted of DWAI, which carries hefty fines and a mandatory two days in jail if it’s your first DWAI or DUI offense. The potential penalties include significant jail time as well, though it isn’t mandatory.

There are two different DUI laws that the prosecutor can use to try to convict you of DUI. The first law, as mentioned above, requires the jury to find you guilty if they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving when your ability was impaired to a substantial degree.

DUI Per Se

The second DUI law is called “DUI Per Se.” The DUI Per Se statute requires the jury to convict you if they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that you had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher while you were driving, or within two hours of driving. Even for a first DUI conviction, you can receive a driver’s license suspension of up to nine months. Depending on the facts of the case and your specific circumstances, you may be eligible for a probationary driver’s license if you agree to install an ignition interlock device. An experienced DUI attorney can assist you with the setup and authorization needed for this particular scenario.

It’s also possible to regain your driver’s license before the conclusion of the full nine-month suspension period. If the following criteria are met, you may be eligible to regain your driver’s license after just four months:

  • You install an ignition interlock device;
  • Your BAC was below .15; and
  • Your BAC was never .25 or above during any of the tests

This is assuming that you successfully use the ignition interlock device for four months as well as not attempt to start the car while drunk during this period. Once you successfully reinstate your license, you can also have the ignition interlock device removed.

The defense of a DUI case involves examining the conclusion that you were driving under the influence with skepticism. Each piece of evidence against you is subject to either human or machine error. When the evidence is pulled apart, and studied for these errors, it may turn out that you did not meet the legal definition of DUI, and should not take a conviction.

The jury must consider the police officer’s testimony about things such as the smell of alcohol on your breath – or whether you swerved on the road – when determining if you were substantially impaired. “Substantial impairment” is a matter of opinion – and the officer’s opinion will play a large role in forming the jurors’ opinions. It’s also important to realize that the officer’s credibility can be called into question here as well. An experienced DUI attorney will be skilled in minimizing the officer’s testimony, and that can be incredibly important in a case where your BAC was below the legal limit.

Your attorney must challenge the sometimes mistaken officer. The officer is only human, and capable of over-stating the indications that you were drunk. Like all people, the police don’t want to be wrong – and they are experienced trial witnesses that know what questions to expect defense attorneys to ask them. An experienced Denver attorney knows this, and prepares accordingly. Our experience will allow us to anticipate how the officer that testifies against you will respond to our questions, and how they will present their evidence against you. If you hire a lawyer who isn’t experienced in handling DUI cases, it’s easy to miss important information and questions on cross examination.

Blood alcohol evidence is subject to both human and machine error. Your breath machine may have been performing inaccurate BAC tests, or the officer may have failed to follow the legally required procedures that are meant to ensure the accuracy of the test. It should never be assumed that your result was accurate. If this is the case, that evidence will likely be inadmissible and your attorney will file a motion to suppress. This makes it much more difficult for the prosecutor to prove that you were driving under the influence or driving while impaired.

For these reasons, actual guilt under the law depends on evidence that must be closely scrutinized before you plead guilty to any DUI related offense. The penalties you could face are too substantial to ignore the reality that the evidence against you could be inaccurate.

You Can’t Avoid Liability by Avoiding a Breath or Blood Test

Some people think they can avoid liability by simply refusing to submit to a breath or blood test. While this can seem like a good idea in the moment, it carries its own set of consequences. If you refuse a breath or blood test, your license will be suspended for one year if it is your first time refusing a test. This means that even if you weren’t drunk, you will still lose your license if you refuse the test.

Underage Drinking and Driving

The Colorado DUI laws pertaining to underage drinking and driving can sometimes be confusing, requiring the expertise of an attorney. In Colorado, it is illegal to drive if you are under the age of 21 and your BAC is .02 or above. However, a first-time underage drinking and driving offense is not an actual crime; it is considered a class A traffic infraction, which is a civil violation, not a criminal violation. You can be fined up to $150, lose your driver’s license for up to three months, be required to complete up to 24 hours of community service, and receive four points on your driving record.

Contact Churchill DUI Defense For Assistance

Churchill DUI Defense, Attorney at Law has been handling DUI law cases for more than 22 years. If you find yourself facing any type of DUI charge, it’s always a good idea to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. We are always here to assist. Contact us today at 303-832-9000 or use our easy online contact form to schedule a free consultation