The holidays are upon us and that means that holiday parties are upon us as well. Office parties, gatherings of families and friends, New Year’s Eve festivities – these annual events almost always have one thing in common: booze. Statistics show that the number drunk driving accidents, injuries, and deaths spike during the holiday season. Colorado law enforcement knows this; that’s why they are especially aggressive in going after drunk drivers during this most wonderful time of the year.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in conjunction with state and local law enforcement conduct their annual “The Heat is On” campaign during the holiday season which includes increased DUI patrols and other efforts to crack down on drunk drivers. As reported by CDOT, almost 1,700 people in Colorado were arrested for DUI during the 2015 holiday season.
You definitely don’t want to spend any part of your holidays dealing with criminal charges or the tragic consequences that can come with driving while under the influence. The power to avoid this possibility lies within your hands. You know that you’re not supposed to drink and drive. But sometimes, especially during this time of year, it can be easy to succumb to the mistaken idea that if we only had a couple of drinks, we are probably under the legal DUI limit of .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) and therefore can drive safely home from holiday festivities without consequence.
The reality is you can be arrested, charged, and convicted for driving with alcohol in your system even if your BAC is significantly below .08. In Colorado, it’s illegal to drive a motor vehicle while you are impaired by alcohol even to the slightest degree. Being impaired to the slightest degree is known as Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) by alcohol.
The law states that a blood or breath alcohol content of as little as .05 gives law enforcement a presumption that a driver is impaired to the slightest degree. On average two or three regular alcoholic beverages consumed in a relatively short time will put a person in this range.
The consequences of a DWAI conviction can be just as serious as a DUI conviction, especially if someone is injured or killed. Even a first DWAI conviction can result in a sentence of up to 180 days in jail, eight points on your driver’s license, a fine of up to $500, two years of probation, and mandatory public service of 24 to 48 hours.
My advice to clients is that if you attend a holiday party and consume more than one drink, it’s advisable that you do not drive a motor vehicle. A Colorado DUI or a DWAI charge will dampen the holiday spirit for you and your loved ones and may lead to lasting consequences, which are both financially costly and deeply embarrassing. Too often I have seen clients go out and drink and then drive home thinking that they are safe to drive. Unfortunately, some have caused accidents and injured themselves and others. It’s safest to not take the chance.