DUI In Colorado – How Courts Determine The Appropriate Sentence

Apr 22, 2024 | DUI Defense

The Severity Of What You Face Depends On The Severity Of What You’ve Done

A DUI in Colorado comes with potentially severe penalties. Even first-time DUI convictions come with a distinct possibility of jail time along with a wide range of other consequences and punishments. Many of the penalties imposed upon conviction for DUI in Colorado are mandatory, such as license suspension and fines.

However, in many cases, especially for first offenses, judges have some significant discretion when handing down a sentence. How they use this discretion depends on many factors that can result in alternative punishments that are far less harsh than they otherwise could be. In other cases, the seriousness of the person’s misconduct – high BAC levels, prior convictions, injuring or killing another person – can result in penalties at the higher end of the scale.

If you face charges for DUI in Colorado, here are some things to know about how courts determine the appropriate sentence.

What You’ll Learn In This Post

  • While some consequences of a DUI conviction are mandatory per Colorado law, El Paso County judges have significant discretion in deciding the appropriate sentence in most cases.
  • Many factors affect the nature and severity of a DUI sentence, including prior convictions, the amount of alcohol in the driver’s bloodstream at the time of their arrest, and whether anyone was injured or killed.
  • An experienced Colorado DUI defense lawyer can challenge the strength of the prosecution’s case and get prosecutors and the judge to agree to a lighter sentence, including alternatives to jail time.

Table of Contents

The Severity of What You Face Depends on the Severity of What You’ve Done

What You’ll Learn in This Post

Mandatory Sentences For DUI in Colorado

General Factors Considered By El Paso County Judges When Determining a Sentence

What the Judge Will Consider When Imposing a Sentence for DUI in Colorado

Previous Convictions

Amount of Alcohol Involved

Strength of the Prosecution’s Case

Don’t Face the Consequences of a DUI in Colorado By Yourself

Mandatory Sentences For DUI in Colorado

Let’s consider a first-time DUI conviction as an example of how judges can make determinations that affect the nature and severity of the sentence they impose.

One of the penalties outlined in Colorado law for individuals receiving a first DUI is a mandatory jail sentence of anywhere from five days to one year.

However, in reality, jail time for a first-time DUI can be mandatory-ish.

Depending upon the circumstances surrounding your arrest, blood alcohol level, and any previous convictions, a skilled DUI defense lawyer may be able to negotiate alternatives to jail, such as an alcohol evaluation, education, and treatment program.

For most first-time offenders, completing the required 12 hours of classes and refraining from using alcohol for one year can result in El Paso County court and its prosecutors waiving your jail time.

But this is not guaranteed.

Related: How DUI Alcohol Classes Can Help Your DUI Defense

James Newby - DUI in Colorado sentencing depends on several factors

General Factors Considered By El Paso County Judges When Determining a Sentence

In cases where a judge has discretion in handing down a sentence, such as for a first-time DUI conviction, Colorado law sets forth several factors they should consider when contemplating the nature and severity of the punishment. These factors involve the specific conduct of the person convicted and the larger systemic reasons and justifications for criminal convictions, including deterrence, punishment, and consistency in sentencing.

Colorado Revised Statute 18-1-102.5 provides that when developing a sentence, a judge should consider the purposes of imposing such penalties, including:

  • Make sure that convicted offenders receive a suitable punishment based on the seriousness of their crime.
  • Treat all convicted offenders fairly and consistently by avoiding unfair differences in sentences, giving clear notice of the expected punishment, and using fair procedures for giving out sentences.
  • Deter others from committing crimes by ensuring the punishment serves as a strong warning.
  • Help convicted offenders change their behavior by encouraging them to voluntarily participate in programs to correct their actions.
  • Choose a punishment and level of supervision that considers the offender’s individual characteristics and reduces the chance of them committing more crimes after serving their sentence.
  • Encourage offenders to take responsibility for their actions and provide healing for victims and the community while also trying to reduce the likelihood of them committing more crimes through restorative justice practices.

What The Judge Will Consider When Imposing a Sentence for DUI In Colorado

As in other cases, a conviction for DUI in Colorado will lead to a sentence that, in theory, is best suited to the nature and severity of the offense and that balances the interests of all parties impacted by the defendant’s actions – including anyone injured or killed in a DUI accident.

As a preliminary matter, while Colorado law establishes the criteria judges must consider when imposing a sentence for DUI, prosecutors are the ones who initially request and suggest the sentence.

El Paso County prosecutors will consider three primary factors when making their sentencing recommendation to the court.

Previous Convictions

While a first-time DUI conviction is no walk in the park, such offenders will usually not face consequences that are as severe as those who are on their second or more DUI convictions. Perhaps the most significant distinction between a first and second DUI in Colorado is the probability of jail time. Coloradans found guilty of a second DUI conviction will receive ten days in jail at a minimum, with the potential for up to a full year behind bars, plus other expensive and burdensome penalties.

Importantly, it doesn’t matter how long ago a prior DUI was or whether it was from another state. Any DUI or DWAI on your record—whether that be from thirty years ago or in another state—is still considered a previous offense that will form the basis for a harsher sentence.

You Might Like: What Is Colorado’s Look-Back Period for DUI, and How Does this Affect My Current Charges?

Amount of Alcohol Involved

Another factor prosecutors and the judge will consider is how much alcohol was in the driver’s bloodstream at the time of their DUI arrest. Prosecutors will consider a driver with a higher blood or breath alcohol level to be more of a danger to the community, and more severe penalties are likely to punish the driver and deter future offenses.

Conversely, the lower the blood alcohol level of the individual, the less severe the penalties may be than for someone with a higher level.

James Newby - DUI in Colorado - how strong is prosecutions case

Strength of The Prosecution’s Case

The third factor prosecutors consider is the strength of their case against the driver. Unfortunately, the prosecution will not show their cards and reveal to the accused that the case against you is weak or difficult to prove.

Instead, an experienced DUI lawyer in Colorado Springs or Teller County will evaluate the case, find the weaknesses in the prosecution’s evidence and testimony, and bring those to their attention. When done correctly, these points may result in a better sentence than the other factors would typically allow.

All of these factors are in play when determining the appropriate sentencing for DUI in Colorado. If you find yourself facing prosecution for drunk driving – whether this is your first, second, or subsequent charge -you need a Colorado Springs DUI defense attorney who can put you in the best position possible based on the facts of your case.

Don’t Face The Consequences Of A DUI In Colorado By Yourself

With so much at stake, trying to go it alone when facing DUI charges can make your bad situation even worse. The Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyers at James Newby Law use their invaluable insights and experience as former DUI prosecutors to protect the rights of individuals charged with DUI. They will attack every aspect of the prosecution’s case, aggressively and strategically fighting the allegations, putting their clients in the best position to obtain a positive outcome.

Speak to an experienced Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney today.