DUI vs. DWAI: Is there a Difference in Colorado?

By February 5, 2021Bail Bonds, News
dui vs dwi dwai

Under Colorado State law, any person is prohibited from driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs or while the person’s ability to drive has been impaired due to alcohol or drug consumption. These offenses are so-called “DUI” and DWAI” offenses. 

What Does DUI Mean?

DUI stands for “Driving Under the Influence” of alcohol or drugs. The name itself means an individual has violated the law prohibiting a person from driving or operating any motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. Additionally, drug impairment is limited to illegal drugs and prescription medication, medical marijuana, marijuana, and even over-the-counter medicines that can cause impairment while driving. It is a more severe charge compared to DWAI. 

What Does DWAI Mean?

DWAI stands for “Driving While Ability Impaired” from alcohol or drugs, and it is a lesser serious charge than the DUI offense. Here, the person driving who consumed alcohol or drugs affects the person’s driving ability to the slightest degree. Same with the DUI, drug impairment can also be from prescription drugs, marijuana, and other over-the-counter medicines.

Blood Alcohol limit in Colorado

The nationwide legal limit of blood alcohol while driving is 0.8%. But if you are pulled over in the Colorado streets, the legal limit is under 0.05%. The main difference between the DUI and DWAI offenses is the blood alcohol level shown in the offender’s test. 

Drivers with at least 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC) will be charged with DUI regardless of the violator’s safe driving. On the other hand, drivers with at least 0.05% BAC are considered DWAI violators. 

Chemical Testing and Implied Consent Law

When you get your driver’s license in Colorado, you are also allowing the authorities to perform blood, breath, or urine tests to detect intoxication. The driver’s license might get revoked for up to one year if the driver refused to take an intoxication test (Preliminary Breath Test not included). 

This chemical testing must be administered by the doctor, nurse, or any authorized person and should be conducted within two hours of driving.

Penalties for first-time DUI and DWAI Offender in Colorado

Generally, driving under the influence is a misdemeanor in Colorado. In other words, the defendant can still post bail through a Denver jail bond agent. However, it will go up to a class 4 felony if there were prior convictions.  

A first-time DWAI offense is punishable by two days to 180 days of jail time, 24 to 48 hours of community service, $200 to $500 fines, and eight demerit points on the license. A first-time DWI offense does not automatically suspend the driver’s license.

On the other hand, a first-time DUI offense is punishable by five days to 1 year of jail time, 48 to 96 hours of community service, $600 to $1,000 fines, and a 9-month suspension of the driver’s license. 

Penalties for Consecutive DUI and DWAI offenses

Although DWAI has lesser penalties for the first-time offense than the DUI, the consequences for both drunk driving are the same. Any prior drunk driving violations will have harsher punishments, whether these previous offenses were several years ago or in another state. It also means a higher jail bond amount. 

A second and third offense has a fine of $600 to $1,500, 48 to 120 hours community service, and ten days to 12 months of jail time (second offense), while there are 60 days to 12 months jail time for 3rd offense.

A fourth-time offense is classified as a class 4 felony with a fine of $2,000 to $500,000, three years mandatory parole, and two to six years in Colorado State Prison.

What is a Persistent Drunk Driver in Colorado?

The Colorado DMV can impose this classification on aggravated DUI violators who can revoke the offender’s license. 

You will be classified as Persistent Drunk Driver or PDD if:

  • You have a BAC result of more than 0.15% while driving.
  • You refuse to take a DUI chemical test.
  • You have multiple DUI convictions.
  • You are caught driving with a license suspended due to a DUI offense.

You can restore your driving privilege under Colorado State law, if:

  • You have completed a level II alcohol and education treatment program for DUI offenders.
  • You have installed and maintained an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for at least two years.
  • You have provided proof of financial responsibility or SR-22 insurance coverage for at least two years.

DMV Hearing

One of the consequences of drunk driving is a points demerit or suspension of your driver’s license. However, you do have the option to request a hearing with the DMV if you want to avoid revocation of license. 

The offender has only seven days after an arrest to ask for a DMV hearing. Otherwise, the license will be automatically suspended. Additionally, the DMV hearings must be scheduled within 60 days after the arrest, and the offender’s license has to be in good standing to avoid suspension. 

Possible Legal Defenses

Like in any legal charges, the prosecutor must prove that the offender is drunk driving without reasonable doubt. After hiring the right defense attorney and 24 hour bail bonds company, the following legal defenses could be used by your attorney to prevent a conviction. 

  • Common defenses for DWAI are the defendant’s BAC result is less than 0.05%, and the offender was not driving impaired.
  • Common defenses for DUI are the defendant’s BAC result is less than 0.08% and that the offender has a medical condition that has caused false high BAC result.
  • Common defenses for either DWAI or DUI include: there is no probable cause for pulling the defendant while driving, the defendant was unlawfully arrested, the DUI breath or blood test didn’t conform with the Colorado laws, the physical condition of the driver, which leads to failing the BAC test. 

Conclusion

Not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is the best way to avoid violating the Colorado drunk driving law. And if you have been pulled over by the authorities and charged with DUI or DWAI offenses, immediately seek legal help from a DUI attorney and a 24 hour bail bonds company like Red’s Anytime Bail Bonds. Call their bail bonds office anytime at 303-623-2245.

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