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Will I Lose My Colorado License if I Have a DUI?

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If you are arrested for DUI in Colorado, it is easy to get confused about what will happen to your license. You will travel two paths after a DUI arrest – the criminal proceedings in court and the administrative process through the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  

What happens to your driving privileges is determined by state statute as administered by the DMV. You can request a DMV hearing with a hearing officer and the arresting officer before a license suspension can go into effect. (Note: In Colorado, technically license suspension and revocation are two different things. Your DUI attorney will use the technical term “revocation” when you lose your license for a DUI, and license “suspension” is when you lose your license because of getting too many points for driving violations. But since most everyday people think of both of these as suspension, we will use the term suspension in this post.)  

After your DUI arrest, you have seven days from receiving notice from the DMV to request a hearing. If you don’t, the DMV will revoke your driving privileges. The length of your suspension depends on whether you have had a previous DUI conviction, and whether you submit to a blood or breath test for blood alcohol content (BAC), or refuse a BAC test. Your license will also be automatically suspended after refusing to be tested to determine your BAC. 

Consequences of DUI and DWAI Convictions 

In Colorado, you can be charged with a DUI because your BAC level, as determined by a blood test or breathalyzer, is above the legal limit of 0.08 (DUI per se). You can also be arrested if there is sufficient evidence you are “under the influence” of a substance to the point that your ability to drive is impaired “to a substantial degree.”  

If you are arrested for DUI, through an administrative process, unless you request a hearing, there will be an automatic license suspension of:  

  • Nine months for your first offense 
  • One year for a second violation 
  • Two years for a third or subsequent offense  

Driving with ability impaired (DWAI) is similar to a DUI charge but is considered less severe. You will likely be arrested for this if your BAC is between .05% and .08% (as this is considered evidence of impairment) or if it can be shown that you are impaired “to the slightest degree” by alcohol or drugs. DWAI cases are where the difference in terminology described above, between suspension and revocation, becomes more important. There is no license revocation for a first DWAI conviction, but a second one will result in a revocation. However, license suspension happens when you get too many points on your license for any driving violations. A DWAI conviction will put points on your license, so if you already have points from other violations, you could reach the point where your license will be suspended. (DWAI is 8 points, and having 12 points in any one-year period results in license suspension in Colorado.) 

Refusing Tests to Determine Your Impairment Can Result in License Revocation 

If you are pulled over, and the officer believes you are impaired, they may ask you to submit to a test to determine your BAC level. You can refuse to do a hand-held, preliminary breath test when you are pulled over, without any penalty to you. In contrast, you can refuse the evidentiary breath test at the police station or blood test. However, if you do, you will face an automatic license suspension for: 

  • One year if it is your first refusal 
  • Two years if it is your second 
  • Three years if it is your third or subsequent refusal 

There are pros and cons to refusing a test. A downside is, depending on your circumstances, your license suspension may be longer for refusing a test than it would be for a DUI or DWAI conviction. 

An Administrative Hearing Determines If You Can Keep Your License Until the Outcome of Your Criminal Charges 

If you refuse a test and/or are arrested for DUI, you can request a DMV hearing. You must do so within seven days of your arrest or test refusal, so you must act quickly. 

In your DMV hearing request, it is important that you check the box that indicates you want the arresting officer to attend the hearing. At this hearing, we can cross-examine the police officer who arrested you and call other witnesses to the stand. We can learn how the officer may testify if the DUI charge goes to trial and we may be able to prevent a license suspension. 

You may shorten your license suspension if you are willing and able to use an ignition interlock device which, if it is operating correctly, will prevent you from driving while intoxicated. You can apply for this early reinstatement immediately after losing your license for a first DUI if you took a BAC test, or after 60 days if you refused the BAC test. 

Defend Your Ability to Drive After a DUI Arrest  

Attorney Kevin Churchill has handled DUI cases for more than 24 years. If you are arrested for DUI and want to know what comes next and how to get the best outcome, contact Churchill DUI Defense. We are always here to help. Contact us at (303) 832-9000 or use our easy online contact form today to schedule a free consultation.