DUI and DWAI in Colorado: What’s the Difference?

  • Mar 29 2017

In Colorado, if you are stopped by the police for impaired driving, you could face a charge for either DUI or DWAI. The difference between the two is a matter of degree but the penalties for either one could still be significant.

What is a DUI?

DUI means that an individual was driving a vehicle after consuming alcohol or drugs and that the individual is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.  It’s a misnomer that your blood alcohol content (“BAC”) must be .08 or above. In order to be charged with DUI per se, your BAC must be measured at .08 or greater within two hours of driving.

What is a DWAI?

“DWAI” stands for “Driving While Ability Impaired.” A DWAI is considered a lesser offense than a DUI. To be charged with a  a DWAI, an officer only needs to have probable cause that you were impaired even to the slightest degree.

Measuring Impairment

In Colorado, if you are operating any type of vehicle, you are presumed to have automatically given consent to testing for alcohol, drugs or both. Testing for alcohol is usually done by an intoxilyzer (breath test) or by drawing your blood.  If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, your license will be revoked for one year.

What are the Potential Penalties?

If you are charged with a DUI, even for a first time offense, you may face significant penalties. You may serve up to one year in jail and face fines of between $600.00 and $1,000.00 (plus administrative costs). Depending on your BAC and your past driving record, your license may be suspended for up to one year, and you may face supervised probation and up to 96 hours of community service. You could also be required to undergo drug and alcohol evaluation and attend a victim impact panel. In addition, a DUI conviction could result in 12 points on your license (which is the maximum allowed).

If you are charged with a DWAI, although it is a lesser offense, you may still face jail time of up to 180 days as well as probation and between 24 to 48 hours of community service. In addition, you could be subject to fines of up to $500.00 plus administrative costs and expenses. Suspension of your license is also a possibility, as is a mandatory drug and alcohol evaluation and participation in a victim impact panel. You could also get up to 8 points on your license.

There are many variables that come into play when facing a charge for either DUI or DWAI, such as your BAC, prior driving record, and whether you caused injuries or property damage. Whatever the circumstances, considering the potential penalties, it is always wise to consult an experienced attorney to discuss your options.

Posted in: DUI