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  • DUI & DWI in Colorado

    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.

    Defining the Crime

    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).
    • Driving While Ability is Impaired (DWAI).

    Rolling the BAC Dice

    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.

    The legal limit for BAC for drivers over 21 years old is 0.08%, while the limit for drivers under 21 years old is 0.02%.

    The BAC limit for DWAI is 0.05%.

    The Penalties

    DWAI 1st Offense―8 points toward license suspension; $200 to $500 fine; up to 180 days in jail; up to 48 hours community service.

    DUI First Offense―License revocation for 9 months; $600 to $1,000 fine; up to 1 year in jail; up to 96 hours community service; alcohol education.

    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.

    The Arrest

    • 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 Cost of Keeping the Keys

    The CDOT offers a line item assessment in an informative brochure of what a DUI costs the individual charged with a first offense. The total comes to over $10,000 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.

    More importantly, what is the cost to your conscience? How can that cost be measured?

    Laws on the Book

    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 years old with a BAC between .02% and .08% face automatic revocation of their license.

    Buy and Possess: If you are under 21 years old and get caught with alcohol in the vehicle, you will have your license revoked.

    For more information on DUIs and BAC consult the Colorado Driver Handbook or visit the Department of Transportation website.

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