Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

What Constitutes DUI and DWAI in Colorado?

Here in the State of Colorado, two different criminal charges involve drinking and driving. If you are charged in or near the Denver area with DUI (driving under the influence) or with DWAI (driving while ability impaired), you must arrange at once to speak with a Denver DUI attorney.

Driving under the influence is the charge when a Colorado driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level measures at or above 0.08 percent. Driving while ability impaired is the charge when a driver’s BAC level measures at or above 0.05 percent but under 0.08 percent.

How Many Deaths Are Caused by Impaired Drivers?

In 2022, traffic accidents in Colorado resulted in 754 deaths, and the Colorado Department of Transportation reports that 278 of those deaths were in accidents that involved impaired drivers. Colorado prosecutors filed more than 16,000 driving under the influence charges in 2022.

Driving while ability impaired is considered a lesser charge, but both charges are serious, and a conviction for either DUI or DWAI in this state can have harsh consequences. You could lose your driving privilege, and in the worst-case scenario, you could even lose your freedom.

What Should You Know About DWAI?

Under the law in Colorado, someone drives while ability impaired when that person is affected by drugs and/or alcohol in “the slightest degree.” Following an arrest for either DUI or DWAI, Colorado law requires a suspect to take either a blood test or a breathalyzer exam.

If a suspect refuses to submit to a breathalyzer exam or a blood test, that person’s license will be suspended automatically for one year, and the driver may be ordered to attend Level II DUI School. A second refusal to test may be penalized with a two-year driver’s license suspension.

Driving while ability impaired is usually charged as a misdemeanor offense in this state, but if you have three or more prior DUI and/or DWAI convictions – and even if any of those convictions were in other states – driving while ability impaired may be charged as a felony.

Will Your Driver’s License Be Suspended?

Like a driving under the influence charge, a DWAI charge may apply to alcohol-impaired driving, drugged driving, or to drivers who combine alcohol and other drugs. However, unlike a first DUI offense, a first DWAI offense, by itself, does not prompt a driver’s license suspension.

When you are charged with DUI, the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) automatically revokes your driver’s license for nine months unless, within seven days of your arrest (or receiving blood test results), you request a hearing to contest your driver’s license revocation.

The DMV hearing is distinct and separate from your criminal DUI case, but with your driving privilege at stake, you must be represented at that hearing by your Denver DUI attorney. A DWAI charge, however, does not trigger an automatic license revocation by the Colorado DMV.

What Should You Know About DUI?

In the State of Colorado, someone’s first driving under the influence conviction may be penalized with a driver’s license suspension, a substantial fine, community service, court-ordered attendance at an alcohol education class, and in some cases, a jail sentence.

First-time DUI offenders are typically charged with misdemeanors in Colorado, but when DUI is charged as a felony, a defendant may receive a prison sentence upon conviction. However, even a misdemeanor DUI conviction can have serious consequences beyond the legal penalties.

If you drive for a living, you may have to seek other employment. If you are not a U.S. citizen, a DUI conviction could trigger a removal proceeding. If you have a professional license in this state, a DUI conviction could prompt disciplinary action by your professional licensing board.

Will You Need to Hire Your Own Defense Attorney?

Speaking frankly, public defenders in Colorado do not have the time or the resources necessary to defend clients effectively. If you face a DUI or DWAI charge, you’ll need to hire your own defense attorney.

A public defender usually will not see your case file until immediately before your arraignment and will seldom even communicate with you prior to your court appearances. Public defenders in Colorado are not bad attorneys, but they are overworked and understaffed.

With the possibility of jail for a DUI or DWAI conviction, if you are charged with either of these crimes in this state, you must be advised and represented by a Denver DUI lawyer who will protect your rights while fighting aggressively and effectively for the justice you need.

How Will a DUI Lawyer Help You?

Your Denver DUI lawyer may defend you by questioning why the police stopped you, contesting the breathalyzer exam or the qualifications of the officer who conducted the exam, or showing that the police violated your rights during an arrest, search, or interrogation. Your lawyer:

  1.  will scrutinize the evidence to find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you
  2.  will negotiate with prosecutors to drop or reduce the charge
  3.  will communicate clearly with you and return your phone calls, texts, and emails
  4.  will use every available legal tool to fight for your freedom and for the justice you need

If you are charged with driving under the influence in or near the Denver area or anywhere in the State of Colorado, and if the charge against you cannot be dropped or dismissed, your Colorado DUI attorney may seek to have the charge reduced to driving while ability impaired.

Of course, if you are innocent, in most cases you should not accept a reduction of the charge or a plea bargain. Instead, if the DUI charge cannot be dropped or dismissed, you should insist on your right to a trial by jury.

Why Should You Choose Attorney Daniel M. Murphy?

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy will use every legal tool available to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case against you and to protect your rights. If you are charged with DUI or DWAI in or near the Denver area, contact Daniel M. Murphy’s law offices immediately.

For over a quarter of a century, DUI attorney Daniel M. Murphy has successfully defended clients charged with DUI and DWAI. He knows how severely a conviction can affect your job and your loved ones, so he works diligently to bring every case to its best possible resolution.

If you currently face a DUI or DWAI charge, or if you are charged with one of these crimes in the future, call the offices of Daniel M. Murphy at 303-996-8998 to arrange for a no-obligation, no-cost legal consultation. Attorney Daniel M. Murphy will put the law to work for you.

Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.