Updated July 24, 2023 | Original Post March 8, 2021
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If You Think a First-Time DUI Is No Big Deal, You’re In For One Big Shock
Contrary to what many Colorado Springs residents may believe, when police arrest you – and prosecutors convict you – for a first-time DUI, the consequences are both swift and severe, immediate and long-lasting. Getting a free pass, a slap on the wrist, or a do-over simply do not apply to a first-time DUI in Colorado.
Colorado law imposes particularly harsh penalties for a first-time DUI conviction. Given the risk of serious injury or death involved with drunk or drugged driving, the state wants to do everything possible to ensure that a driver’s first DUI is also their last. Of course, even the losses to a driver’s rights, reputation, bank account, and freedom aren’t enough to deter some people from getting behind the wheel again after having one or four too many drinks. As bad as the consequences are for a first-time DUI, they are even worse for a second and subsequent conviction.
That is why you need to take any charges for DUI seriously. And learning what fate awaits you upon conviction of your first DUI should spur you to call an experienced Colorado Springs DUI defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest.
What You’ll Learn in This Post:
- There are no free passes for a first-time DUI in Colorado. Prosecutors aggressively seek convictions, and the consequences are severe and long-lasting.
- You can face charges and convictions even if your blood alcohol content is below the recognized legal limit and even if you were not actually driving.
- Loss of driving privileges, up to a year in jail, the installation and use of an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle, community service, points on your driving record, and hefty fines are all possible penalties for a first-time DUI conviction.
What Will Get You Charged With a First-Time DUI?
Like every other state, Colorado sets legal limits on the amount of alcohol you can have in your body – measured as blood alcohol content (BAC) – when driving. Those limits depend on who you are. In Colorado, the legal limit for drivers over 21 years old is 0.08%, while drivers under 21 can face DUI charges for a much lower 0.02% BAC. If you hold a commercial driver’s license, the legal limit is 0.04%. If your BAC is at or above the legal limit that applies to you, police can arrest you and charge you with DUI.
However, you can be charged and convicted of an alcohol-related offense even if your BAC is below the legal limit.
If your BAC is .05% or higher (but less than .08% BAC) and the arresting officer determines that you are impaired to even the slightest degree, you could face the charge of Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). While the penalties for a DWAI are less severe than for DUI, they are no walk in the park either and will disrupt your life plenty if you are convicted.
You Can Be Convicted of DUI Even If You Weren’t Driving
While DUI is short for “driving under the influence,” you can face charges even if you were not “driving” in the sense that we commonly think of the word. Colorado’s primary DUI statute, CRS § 42-4-1301, provides that anyone who drives a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a drug (including driving high) is committing the crime of driving under the influence. Although the term “drives” is not explicitly defined in the statute, the term “driver” is defined in section 42-1-102(27) as a person who not only who drives, but also one who is in actual physical control of a vehicle.
Based on that definition, Colorado courts have consistently held “the term ‘drive’ for purposes of the DUI statute to mean ‘actual physical control’ of a vehicle.” As such, being in “actual physical control of a vehicle” while intoxicated is sufficient for a DUI charge and conviction. And if you are in the driver’s seat with the keys either in the ignition or within reach, you will likely be considered in “actual physical control” of the car.
This means police can arrest and charge you with DUI while parked.
Your First-Time DUI in Colorado May Not Be a First DUI
If you face DUI charges in Colorado for the first time, that does not necessarily mean that prosecutors will treat your case as a first-time DUI. Colorado law considers a DUI conviction in any other state your first DUI, no matter how long ago it occurred.
In such a case, you would face the harsher penalties that come with a second or subsequent DUI conviction.
Mandatory Jail Time Is a Distinct Possibility For a First-Time DUI
Your first Colorado DUI is a misdemeanor offense. But a misdemeanor does not mean minor; a conviction for DUI or DWAIcan result in several criminal and civil penalties.
This includes a mandatory minimum of five days up to one year behind bars. However, your DUI defense lawyer may be able to help you avoid jail and instead get you into an alternative alcohol evaluation, education, and treatment program. If you complete the program (which usually takes 12 hours for most first-time DUIs) and refrain from using alcohol for a year (and the authorities will check up on you about that), the court and prosecutors may waive your jail time.
Say Goodbye To Your Driving Privileges For a While
The most immediate impact of a DUI arrest – even if you are later acquitted of the charges – is that you lose the right to drive legally. After arresting you for DUI, the officer will take away your license and give you a temporary permit valid for only seven days. If you want to get your license back, you must request a hearing with the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles in writing within those seven days.
After a first-time DUI conviction, your license may be suspended for nine months, though you can apply for a restricted license. Even if you are acquitted, you could lose your license for up to one year if you refused a chemical test to determine your BAC level.
Say Hello To Your Ignition Interlock Device
If you want to get back on the road with a restricted license after your first-time DUI conviction, a condition of doing so will be the requirement to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle. If your conviction was for a BAC of less than 0.15%, you must keep the device on your car for at least six months. If your BAC is higher than that, authorities will likely require you to continue using the device for up to two years.
Importantly, you will bear the cost for the installation of the device as well as monthly maintenance charges of up to $90. You must also take your vehicle to the IID company for monthly calibration, adding another hassle to your already busy life.
Significant Costs In Money, Time, and Points On Your Driving Record
Upon conviction for driving under the influence, you may have to pay fines of up to $1,000 and be on the hook for hundreds of dollars in additional administrative, court, and treatment program costs.
Clear a lot of time in your schedule as well, as your sentence may also include between 48-96 hours of community service. Your driving record will take a hit, too, with 12 points added against your license and the subsequent increase in insurance premiums that come with those extra points.
The foregoing are the penalties for a conviction of your first DUI that does not involve injury or death. But if your first-time DUI resulted in someone suffering injuries or dying, the punishments are much more severe.
Don’t Underestimate The Consequences Of A First-Time DUI.
Even a first-time DUI in Colorado can upend your life in many ways. When facing such charges, trying to go it alone can worsen an already bad situation. The Colorado Springs DUI defense attorneys at James Newby Law use their knowledge and insight gained as former DUI prosecutors to protect the rights of individuals facing DUI charges. Attacking the prosecution’s case at every turn, they will look for every possible weakness and advance any argument to put his clients in the best position to obtain a positive outcome.
Put the Former Prosecutor Advantage to work for you today. It all starts with your confidential, free initial consultation. Contact us today to get started on your defense.