I just got a DUI. What happens if I already have a few on my record?
Getting pulled over after meeting up with co-workers at a happy hour or attending a family barbeque can result in allegations of drunk driving. The officer may smell some alcohol and move forward with the procedure for gathering evidence to support criminal charges for drunk driving. This is a frightening situation, especially for those who already have prior convictions for drunk driving on their record.
Drivers who are in this situation likely have a number of questions. It is helpful to have a basic understanding of how state law works to better understand your situation and how the process will move forward in your case.
What does Colorado state law consider drunk driving?
It is illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC over 0.05 in Colorado. When the BAC is between 0.05 and 0.08, the state could move forward with driving while ability impaired by alcohol (DWAI) charges. If the BAC is over 0.08, the state can move forward with driving under the influence (DUI) charges.
A higher BAC can lead to additional penalties, the penalties for a DUI are more severe than those for a DWAI, so in addition to taking any previous DUI or DWAI convictions into account, the BAC reading also matters.
Other factors that can result in increased penalties include if there was a car accident, if anyone was injured, or if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of the stop that led to the allegations of drunk driving.
What type of penalties are possible if I have previous DUI or DWAIs on record?
The state generally breaks down penalties into two different categories for these types of cases. The first category, administrative, can result in license suspension and a certain number of points against your license. These points can accumulate over time. Get too many and additional suspensions can apply.
The second category of penalties, criminal, can include fines, required public service, and potential imprisonment. The penalties increase in severity when there are prior offenses on record. A second DUI or DWAI can result in a minimum of 10 days or maximum of one year in jail and up to $1,500 in fines. Compare this to a first offense. A first DUI can result in 5 days to one year in jail and up to $1,000 fine while a first DWAI can result in 2 to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Those who have three previous DWAI or DUIs on record face even more severe penalties, as the criminal charges increase from a misdemeanor offense to a felony. Felony charges open up additional sentencing options, that can include up to 6 years imprisonment and an additional 3 years of parole.
What are my options if I am accused of a fourth or fifth DUI?
First, there are defense strategies to address the allegations. It is important to review every step of the process and fight back against the allegations. If the police did not follow proper protocol or if there was an error in the collection of evidence that led to false allegations of wrongdoing, you can get the charges reduced or even dismissed.
Those who are facing a conviction also have options. A felony DUI conviction in Colorado can result in eligibility for Community Corrections. This is an alternative to prison. It still results in supervision, but also provides treatment options and some access to the community.
It is important to discuss all possibilities when navigating this situation. An attorney experienced in Colorado criminal law can help you fight for your freedom and work to protect you from the law’s harshest penalties.