DWI Laws Colorado
Colorado has two levels of alcohol-related driving offenses, and both are based on the measurement of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the body.
- Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI).
- Driving While Ability is Impaired (DWAI).
Colorado BAC Limits
Simply put, blood alcohol concentration is how much alcohol is pulsing through your blood after you drink.
The legal limit BAC for drivers over 21 years old is 0.08%, while the limit for drivers under 21 years old is 0.02%.
DWAI has a limit of 0.05%.
In Colorado the Division of Motor Vehicles has the legal authority to suspend your license for DUI and DWAI regardless of any criminal charges you may face through the courts. These penalties, known as Administrative Penalties, can cause an automatic suspension of your driver’s license as well as fees and points depending on the offense.
DWAI 1st Offense: 8 points toward license suspension; $200 to $500 fine; up to 180 days in jail; up to 48 hours community service.
DUI 1st Offense: Administrative license revocation for 9 months; $600 to $1,000 fine; up to 1 year in jail; up to 96 hours community service; alcohol education.
DUI/DWAI 1st offense under 21 years old: Drivers license suspended 3 months and 4 points added to driving record.
The penalties increase substantially for repeated offenses and, in some cases, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car. The only way to challenge Administrative penalties is to request an alcohol hearing.
You have 7 days after receiving a revocation/suspension notice to request a hearing. You must go in person to the DMV to put in a request. You will also be required to turn over your license if you did not do so at the time of the violation. You may also be eligible for a temporary driving permit while you wait for your hearing. For more information about alcohol hearings please call Customer Service at (303) 205-5613 or the Department of Revenue’s Hearings Division at (303) 205-5606
- If you fail the roadside sobriety test, which could entail anything from standing on one leg while answering a barrage of questions to touching your nose and walking a straight line, you will be read your rights.
- You will be handcuffed and taken to a city or county jail.
- A tow truck will take your car and impound it.
The CDOT offers a line item assessment in an informative brochure of what a DUI costs the individual charged with a first offense. The total comes to over $10,000 and includes lawyer fees, rising insurance rates, fees to get a license back, probation supervision fees, all the way down to the brain injury surcharge and court costs. This figure is based on the minimum fine. It is easy to see that drinking and driving is not worth any cost.
Refusing a BAC Test
Express Consent Law: By operating a motor vehicle in the state of Colorado you are automatically giving “express consent” or granting permission to be administered a chemical test by breath, blood, or urine to measure your blood alcohol content. If a law enforcement officer requires you to take a test because of suspected drinking and driving and you refuse, you will be required to have an Ignition Interlock for 2 years. As of January 1st 2014 refusing a chemical test automatically gets you a Persistent Drunk Driver designation.
Zero Tolerance: Drivers under 21 years old with a BAC between 0.02% and 0.05% face automatic revocation of their license.
Buy and Possess: If you are under 21 years old and get caught with alcohol in the vehicle, you will have your license revoked.
For more information on DUIs and BAC consult the Colorado Driver Handbook or visit the Department of Transportation website.
Ignition Interlock Device
You may be allowed an early reinstatement after an Administrative license suspension by having a Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed in your vehicle. This can only be done after serving a portion of your suspension. The length of time depends on the type and number of violations. You must also:
- Over 21 years old at the time of the violation.
- Satisfied all requirements for reinstatement.
- Completed at least 1 month of a a DUI conviction or Administrative driver’s license suspension.
- Completed at least 2 months for a Refusal of a BAC test.
The annual cost for an IID is about $1,000. The IID MUST be installed and maintained by a state approved vendor in order to be valid. If you wish to know if you may be eligible for an early reinstatement with an IID you can call Customer Service at (303) 205-5613.
Driver’s License Reinstatement
Once your suspension time is completed, with or without an IID, the DMV will send you a letter with steps to take to purchase an Unrestricted License. Before you are able to get a new license you must complete all the conditions of your suspension including all fees and program classes required. When you are eligible for a new license you will be required to fill out a Application for Reinstatement (Form DR 2870) and a Certification (Form DR 2598). You will also have to pay the $95 reinstatement fee and show proof of insurance (SR 22) for up to 3 years. The length a SR 22 is required will depend on the type and number of violations.