WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DUI AND DWAI?
DUI stands for “driving under the influence” and refers to driving a vehicle having consumed alcohol and/ or drugs that affect your ability to operate a vehicle safely.
DWAI, on the other hand, stands for “driving while ability impaired”. This is a less serious offense but, as we will see in a moment, it can still result in serious penalties. It is also easier to prove DWAI in Colorado since the prosecution need only show that you were affected to some degree, however slight.
WHEN CAN YOU BE CHARGED WITH DUI OR DWAI?
According to Colorado DUI laws, your blood alcohol level will generally determine whether you can be charged with DUI or DWAI. If your blood alcohol level is greater than 0.8% then you can be charged with DUI. If your blood alcohol level is between 0.5% and 0.8%, then you can be charged with DWAI instead.
In both cases, the only factor that matters to the prosecution is your blood alcohol level!
Your driving ability and field sobriety test performance are completely irrelevant to the prosecution. Either your blood alcohol level exceeds the limit or it doesn’t.
A refusal is almost always charged as a DUI.
In almost all cases where there is a refusal to take either a blood or breath test to determine the level of alcohol, you will end up charged with the more serious offense of DUI. Again, to the prosecution, they will not care about these other factors but will simply assume since you refused a test that you were driving under the influence.
WHEN HAPPENS IF YOU ARE CHARGED?
Colorado DUI and DWAI arrests actually produce two separate cases: a Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) action and a court case. The DMV action is where your driving privileges can be suspended or revoked, while the court case can result in criminal charges like fines, probation, and jail sentences.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE CHARGED?
DUI and DWAI charges are serious, so you should hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible. In Colorado, if you chose a breath test and had a BAC over .08 you will only have seven days from the date of your arrest to request a DMV hearing.
If you miss this deadline then your license will be suspended automatically!
An experienced DUI / DWAI defense attorney can make sure that your request for a hearing is submitted in time and can help you avoid or minimize any penalties. Bear in mind that a DUI or DWAI conviction will remain on your criminal record for the rest of your life.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU ARE FOUND GUILTY OF DUI OR DWAI?
The maximum penalty for driving under the influence in Colorado is one year in jail, a $1000 fine, 96 hours of public service, as well as an alcohol evaluation, an alcohol education course, and 86 hours of therapy. These penalties can be even higher for repeat offenders.
A first-time offender will usually receive a minimum sentence like supervised probation for a year or two, 48 hours of public service, an alcohol evaluation and education course, as well as fines, fees, and court costs which can total around $1300.
SHOULD YOU SEEK LEGAL ASSISTANCE?
Absolutely! People who are charged with DUI or DWAI often have no prior criminal record and assume that the “system” will understand that they simply made a mistake. Unfortunately, that’s not how the “system” works and learning this the hard way can be very unpleasant indeed!
An experienced DUI / DWAI defense attorney, like Kevin Pauly, can defend your rights and help you minimize or avoid any penalties. For more than a decade, Kevin has exclusively defended those facing criminal charges in Colorado. He has completed over 60 jury trials and was named Attorney of the Year in 2007 for the Denver Trial Office of the Colorado State Public Defender.