Colorado Enacts More Restrictive DUI Penalties

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Across the country, states are taking action to combat drunk driving. As the penalties become more restrictive and expensive, Colorado is no exception. On January 1, 2009, Colorado's DUI (driving under the influence) laws changed in ways that every driver needs to be aware of before getting behind the wheel.

Across the country, states are taking action to combat drunk driving. As the penalties become more restrictive and expensive, Colorado is no exception. On January 1, 2009, Colorado's DUI (driving under the influence) laws changed in ways that every driver needs to be aware of before getting behind the wheel.

Ignition Interlock Systems and First-Time Colorado Offenders

Ignition interlock systems basically are breathalyzers that are installed in vehicles. Before being able to start the car, a driver must blow into the device, which will check for any traces of alcohol in the driver's breath. If the device finds traces of alcohol, the driver will not be able to start the vehicle.

Prior to January 2009, only repeat DUI offenders and those with high blood alcohol content (BAC) levels were required to use ignition interlock systems. As of January 1, 2009, however, even first-time offenders now must install these devices in order to receive a hardship license -- and this option only becomes available to first-time offenders after a one-month waiting period, during which they cannot operate any motor vehicle for any reason.

Drivers are required to pay all costs associated with the ignition interlock system, including a one-time installation fee of around $100 and monthly fees from $60-$80. While their driving privileges are restricted, drivers may not operate any vehicle that does not have an ignition interlock system. A restricted driver who drives a vehicle without the device or attempts to tamper with a device may have his or her driving privileges suspended for one year, in addition to being subject to a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, fines and mandatory jail time.

If a driver with the ignition interlock system does not have any positive readings during a consecutive four-month period, the DMV may allow the driver to have the device removed.

DUI Penalties

Other Colorado DUI penalties became more severe as of January 1, 2009. The basics are outlined below, but the penalties that any driver faces depend on the facts of his or her case. An experienced DUI attorney should evaluate the case to determine the full scope of potential penalties.

First-time offenders

  •     Nine-month license suspension period (previously three months)
  •     License revocation can be based on a finding of guilt by either the DMV or the court for a DUI per se conviction (finding that the driver had BAC over the legal limit of .08)
  •     Driver may receive hardship license after one-month suspension with installation of ignition interlock system
  •     Thousands of dollars in costs and fines

Second-time offenders

  •     Second conviction must have occurred within five years of the first conviction
  •     Minimum one-year license suspension
  •     No probationary driving privileges available
  •     Mandatory minimum 10 days in jail (but may be up to one year at judge's discretion)
  •     Thousands of dollars in costs and fines

Third-time or subsequent offenders

  •     Third conviction can occur at any time after the first two -- even in another state
  •     Minimum two-year license suspension
  •     Restricted driving privileges with installation of ignition interlock system may be available after first year of license suspension
  •     Mandatory minimum 10 days in jail
  •     Thousands of dollars in costs and fines

Offenders with high BAC

  •     Any offender with greater than .17 BAC required to install ignition interlock system to receive restricted driving privileges for a period of two years
  •     Any offender with greater than .20 BAC receives mandatory minimum 10 days in jail

Important note: Drivers also may receive an additional three months added to their license suspension period if they have 12 or more points against their driver's license.

Additionally, whether it is the first or a subsequent arrest, DUI offenders also will have to attend an alcohol counseling program, perform community service, serve probation and pay court costs.

DUI Charges: An Administrative and Criminal Process

The process for adjudicating drunk driving claims in Colorado has an administrative aspect and a criminal aspect. The administrative process occurs before the Division of Motor Vehicles (a part of the Department of Revenue), which is in charge of regulating driver's licenses for the state. The criminal process occurs before a judge during a formal court proceeding.

Drivers facing DUI/DWAI (driving while ability impaired) charges only have seven days from the date of arrest to request a hearing with the DMV. If they fail to do so, their driver's licenses will automatically be suspended.

A conviction for drunk driving has long-lasting consequences. Not only does it restrict your ability to move freely, it also can leave a lasting black mark on your record -- both your driving record and your criminal record. It is important to have an attorney defend your case and help you minimize or even eliminate the consequences that you face. A lawyer experienced in handling DUI cases may challenge the evidence against you, negotiate a plea bargain, have evidence suppressed,or even help you receive an alternative sentence to jail time, including a work program, home detention or weekend jail.

Being convicted of drunk driving is expensive today and will continue to be costly for years to come. If you have been charged with drunk driving, talk to an experienced DUI defense lawyer at the Denver law office of Rosenthal & Heymann, LLC. The firm will work energetically to defend your rights and protect your driving privileges.

For a free consultation with a DUI lawyer in Denver, call 1-888-ROSE-HEY or 303-825-2223 or contact Rosenthal & Heymann online.

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Jeremy Rosenthal
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