Colorado takes drinking and driving very seriously. Driving while intoxicated risks lives and leaves the driver liable for damages in an accident. If you’ve been arrested on a DUI charge for the first time, you’re probably ashamed and embarrassed, as well as worried about what to expect and how this will impact your immediate future and the rest of your life. Unlike a simple traffic ticket, a DUI isn’t just a traffic citation, it’s a criminal offense. It’s best to prepare yourself for the criminal process ahead by hiring an attorney to protect your rights and best interests throughout the proceedings.
A first-time DUI charge is a criminal misdemeanor offense and can result in significant fines and penalties, including the possibility of jail time.
How The DUI Process Works in Colorado
A police officer in Colorado may pull you over if your driving was erratic or if you’ve broken traffic laws. Typically, the officer will ask if you know why you were pulled over. You should always remember that what you say in response can be used against you later in court as an admission of guilt. If the officer has reason to suspect that you’ve been drinking, they will ask you to undergo a field sobriety test. In Colorado, possessing a driver’s license implies consent to BAC testing. Though you have the right to refuse this test, doing so will result in the loss of your driver’s license for at least a year.
What happens next depends on the results of your Blood Alcohol Content Test (BAC). A BAC of 0.08% or higher is a crime for those over the age of 21. Underage drinkers can be charged at only 0.02% and truck drivers or commercial license holders have a legal limit of 0.04%.
Blowing above the legal limit in a breathalyzer gives the officer reason to charge you. Once you’ve been arrested and read your rights, you’ll be given a blood test at the police station, since the breathalyzer results aren’t admissible in court.
Expect law enforcement to impound your car. Depending on the severity of the circumstances, they may release you to the custody of a sober friend or relative until your trial date or the police could hold you in a cell or send you to a detox unit until you’re sober.
What are the Penalties for a First-Time DUI in Colorado?
Penalties for a first-time DUI in Colorado are significant. If you’ve been involved in an accident, you could face additional charges, but a simple first-time DUI conviction could mean facing the following penalties:
- From 5 days up to 1-year in jail depending on your blood alcohol content and how dangerously you were driving
- Up to a $1,000 fine
- License revocation for at least 9 months
- Community service orders for 48-96 hours
- Mandatory alcohol education
- An ignition interlocking device placed on your vehicle for a further 9 months
Depending on the judge’s discretion, jail time for a first-time DUI could mean incarceration in the county jail or you could be placed under house arrest at home with an electric monitoring device and a work-release program.
Some Colorado counties are more or less likely to mandate jail time for first-time DUI offenders. A vigorous defense and skilled negotiations for a plea deal through a Colorado DUI attorney can potentially minimize your jail time after a conviction or keep you out of jail completely depending on whether or not there were aggravating factors such as an accident.
In some cases, an experienced attorney may be able to get the charges against you dropped, for instance, if the officers didn’t follow proper procedures during your arrest.