DUI & DWI in Colorado
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We have all seen the stories on the evening news. A young child, a family of four, or a pedestrian―the human cost of a blast of speed through a red light, an out-of-control vehicle, a drunk driver, and ultimately a wrong decision. We know the people, or people who know the people; the drivers, or the families on either side, or the dead. Somehow, we are all directly or indirectly linked to the results of getting into a car after a night of intoxicating fun.
While the news in Colorado is encouraging, alcohol-related accidents and fatalities are steadily decreasing, the scourge of drunk driving is still a serious problem. Despite the numerous enforcement programs by police agencies around the state, including the well-known Heat is On campaign, which nabs drunk drivers en masse, half of all traffic deaths in the state of Colorado are still tinged with alcohol.
Colorado has two levels of alcohol-related driving offenses and both are based on the measurement of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the body.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI):
A DUI is the more serious offense of the two and has consequences that are extremely costly both to your wallet and to your diving privileges, and could potentially result in serious jail time.
Driving While Ability is impaired by Alcohol or Drugs (DWAI):
This may be the lesser of the two offenses defined as a BAC between .05% and .07%, but the fines and penalties are just as hefty.
Simply put, blood alcohol concentration is how much alcohol is pulsing through your blood giving you the feel-good high of inebriation. It is possible (especially if you endured college parties) that you have been in those situations where some showoff who has pounded 10 kamikazes, eight beers, four gin and tonics, and a martini to boot, will claim they are not a bit intoxicated.
Despite the fact that a BAC might show them legally deceased, they claim they could get behind the wheel and drive 200 miles easily. You usually see these sorts on the 10 o'clock news.
While there are numerous factors affecting BAC, scientists have come up with a few basic averages. Cresting the .08% BAC level would require a 170-pound guy with an empty stomach to imbibe around four drinks in one hour. To match this, a woman hovering around 140 pounds would need to have three drinks in an hour on an empty stomach.
So, the variable is based on body weight, time frame vs. amount consumed, and time elapsed between drinks. As far as alcohol content per drink, a glass of wine, one beer, and one shot all carry about equal weight.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has a nifty online BAC calculator.
DWAI First Offense―8 points toward license suspension; $100 to $500 fine; two to 180 days in jail; 24 to 48 hours community service.
DUI First Offense―Automatic suspension of license for up to a year; $300 to $1,000 fine; five days to one year in jail; 48 to 96 hours community service; alcohol education for three to nine months.
The penalties increase substantially for repeated offenses and, in some cases, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car. That means your car won't even turn on if the device detects a certain percentage of alcohol in your breath.
- After you manage to fail the roadside sobriety test, which could entail anything from standing on one leg while answering a barrage of questions to touching your nose and walking a straight line, you will be read your rights.
- You will enjoy a complimentary ride in a police car to a city or county jail―in tight handcuffs.
- A tow truck will take your car and impound it.
- A breathalyzer test will be offered, and if you refuse it, you can say good-bye to your license at that point; it will be confiscated. You may never see it again, as it will be revoked.
- You will get to sober up either in the stink of a mass holding cell or in a "detox" room. Depending on how much you had to drink, this could be just a long few hours or a never-ending day. While you are sitting in jail, a whole series of events could be set into motion affecting your employment, your financial stability, and your family.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) calculates that the average alcohol-related fatality in Colorado costs $3.6 million: $1.1 million in monetary costs and $2.5 million in quality of life losses. Also, motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol set the state back an astounding $1.9 billion in the year 2000.
So, one death equals $3.6 million, but what is the cost to your conscience? How can that cost be measured, or a monetary settlement be put on a family that must grieve a lost member?
CDOT offers a line item assessment in an informative brochure of what a first offense costs the individual charged with a DUI. The total comes to a whopping $9,481 and includes lawyer fees, rising insurance rates, fees to get a license back, probation supervision fees, all the way down to the brain injury surcharge and court costs. This figure is based on the minimum fine! Of course, this does not include a possible job loss and the strain on loved ones. It is easy to see that drinking and driving is not worth any cost.
Express Consent Law: By operating a motor vehicle in the state of Colorado you are automatically giving "express consent" or granting permission to be administered a chemical test by breath, blood, or urine to measure your blood alcohol content. If a law enforcement officer requires you to take a test because of suspected drinking and driving and you refuse, your license will be revoked at that point for one year.
Zero Tolerance: Drivers under 21 with a BAC between .02% and .08% face automatic revocation of their license.
Buy and Possess: If you are under 21 and get caught with alcohol in the vehicle, you will have your license revoked.
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