Driving Under the Influence Book on Table

Frequently Asked Questions About DUIs

Law Offices of Malcolm B. Seawell July 3, 2024

Colorado takes driving under the influence (DUI) very seriously, and the laws surrounding DUIs can be complex and confusing. If you've been charged with a DUI or are facing legal consequences related to a DUI, you may have many questions about the process and potential outcomes.  

At the Law Offices of Malcolm B. Seawell, PC, our defense lawyer is committed to helping you understand your rights and options if you’re facing DUI charges.  

Below, we address some of the most common questions we receive about DUI cases. Please note that while this guide aims to be informative, it is not a substitute for professional legal advice. For guidance tailored to your specific situation, consult an attorney in your area. 

What constitutes a DUI in Colorado? 

In Colorado, a driver can be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. A driver under the age of 21 can face DUI charges if their BAC is 0.02% or higher.  

It’s important to note that Colorado also has provisions for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), which applies if your BAC is between 0.05% and 0.08%. 

What are the penalties for a first-time DUI conviction? 

The penalties for a first-time DUI conviction in Colorado can include: 

  • Fines: from $600 to $1,000. 

  • Jail time: Between 5 days and 1 year. 

  • License suspension: Up to 9 months. 

  • Ignition interlock device requirement: 8 months 

  • Community service: 48-96 hours. 

The severity of the penalties can depend on various factors, including your BAC level at the time of arrest and whether there were any aggravating circumstances, such as an accident or an injury. 

What is an ignition interlock device? 

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breathalyzer installed in a vehicle to prevent it from starting if the driver's BAC exceeds a pre-set limit, which is typically very low. The device requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece before starting the vehicle. If alcohol is detected in the driver's breath, the engine will not start.  

Additionally, the IID may require random breath samples while the vehicle is in operation to ensure continued sobriety. In Colorado, first-time DUI offenders may be required to use an IID as part of their penalties, typically for 8 months, though this can vary based on the case's specifics. The goal of an IID is to allow individuals the freedom to drive while ensuring public safety by preventing impaired driving. 

Can I refuse a breathalyzer or field sobriety test? 

Refusing a breathalyzer or field sobriety test in Colorado has significant legal consequences due to the state's "express consent" law. This law is detailed in Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) § 42-4-1301.1, which stipulates that any driver on Colorado's public roads consents to chemical testing (breath, blood, or urine) for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol or drugs if there is probable cause for a DUI arrest. 

If you refuse to submit to such testing, your refusal will trigger an administrative license suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The first refusal results in a one-year revocation of your driving privileges. If you refuse a second time within a five-year period, the revocation period extends to two years, and a third refusal will lead to a three-year revocation. The penalties are guided by C.R.S. § 42-2-126

Also, refusal to take a chemical test does not protect you from DUI charges. Law enforcement officers can still arrest and prosecute you for DUI based on other evidence, such as erratic driving, slurred speech, or the smell of alcohol. Colorado law allows police officers to obtain a warrant to conduct a blood draw if they have probable cause to believe you are under the influence. 

Beyond the initial license revocation, there are other potential penalties for refusing a chemical test. Convicted individuals may face fines, mandatory alcohol education classes, and the installation of an ignition interlock device in their vehicles as a condition for reinstating their driving privileges. 

Is it illegal to drive high or under the influence of cannabis in Colorado? 

Yes, it is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis in Colorado. While cannabis is legal for both medicinal and recreational use in the state, driving while impaired by cannabis is treated similarly to driving under the influence of alcohol. The legal limit for Delta-9 THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, is 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.  

If you are found to have a THC level above this threshold, you can be charged with a DUI. The penalties for driving high can include fines, jail time, and license suspension, similar to the penalties for alcohol-related DUIs. Law enforcement officers are trained to recognize signs of cannabis impairment and can use various methods, including blood tests, to determine if a driver is under the influence of cannabis. 

What should I do if I’m pulled over for suspected DUI? 

If you are pulled over for suspected DUI, here are steps to consider: 

  • Remain calm: Be polite and respectful to the officer. 

  • Provide requested documents: Offer your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. 

  • Be cautious with answers: You have the right to remain silent; be mindful of incriminating yourself. 

  • Refuse field sobriety tests: These are voluntary and often used to gather evidence against you. 

  • Consent to chemical tests: Refusal may result in severe administrative penalties beyond the DUI charges. 

  • Contact a lawyer immediately: Seek legal advice as soon as possible to protect your rights. 

How can a DUI affect my future? 

A DUI conviction can have long-lasting effects, including: 

  • Criminal record: A DUI stays on your criminal record and can affect employment and housing opportunities. 

  • Increased insurance rates: A DUI can significantly increase your auto insurance premiums. 

  • Professional consequences: Certain professions may terminate your employment or result in the loss of professional licenses. 

  • Travel restrictions: Some countries may deny entry if you have a DUI conviction. 

Why should I hire a DUI lawyer? 

Hiring a DUI lawyer can significantly impact the outcome of your case. An experienced attorney can: 

  • Evaluate the evidence: Identify any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. 

  • Negotiate plea bargains: Potentially reduce charges or penalties. 

  • Represent you in court: Advocate on your behalf and provide the best defense possible. 

  • Guide you through the process: Ensure you understand your rights and options at every stage. 

Contact Us for Skilled Representation 

At the Law Offices of Malcolm B. Seawell, we have the experience and dedication to navigate even the most severe DUI cases. We’re here to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your situation. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Our Colorado firm proudly serves clients throughout the Denver Metro area in Colorado, including Aurora, Golden, Lakewood, Arvada, Boulder, Brighton, Englewood, Castle Rock, Littleton, and Highlands Ranch.