The difference between DUI and DWAI charges in Colorado

The legal driving limit in Colorado is a blood alcohol concentration of .08 for most adults, and drivers who get behind the wheel with a BAC this high or higher are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Motorists with blood alcohol concentrations between .05 and .08 do not generally face DUI charges, but they can be charged with the lesser crime of driving while alcohol impaired if police officers determine that their ability to operate their motor vehicles safely is affected even slightly.

DUI and DWAI are both unclassified misdemeanors, but repeat offenders could be charged with felonies. This is why it may be a good idea to speak with an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty to a drunk driving charge.

DWAI penalties

Individuals convicted of their first DWAI offense face between two days and 180 days in jail and a fine of between $200 and $500. While judges may suspend the fine at their discretion, between 24 and 48 hours of community service is mandatory for first time DWAI offenders. The administrative penalty for a first DWAI is eight driver’s license demerit points, but the offense does not carry a mandatory suspension.

DUI Penalties

The penalties for DUI are more severe. First time offenders can expect to spend between five days and one year in jail and pay a fine of between $600 and $1,000. They will also be ordered to perform between 48 and 96 hours of community service and their driving privileges will be suspended for nine months. Penalties for subsequent DWAI or DUI convictions are harsher, and individuals found guilty of drunk driving for the fourth time can be sent to prison for up to six years.

Drunk driving defense

If you are accused of either DUI or DWAI, you deserve a vigorous defense. An experienced criminal defense attorney could study the facts of your case to determine whether the police officer involved had the requisite reasonable suspicion to pull you over. If they did not, an attorney could seek to have the charges against you dismissed. An attorney could also move for a dismissal if the equipment used to determine your BAC was not properly maintained or you suffer from a medical condition that could have influenced your breath-test results.