Drunk Driving & DWAI FAQs
Drunk Driving & DUI FAQs
What should I do if I am stopped on suspicion of drunk driving?
You should be polite and cooperative with the officer who stops you, but bear in mind that you have the right to remain silent. Just make sure you have the ability! You are not required to answer any of the officer’s questions that may incriminate you, just as you are not required to perform a roadside sobriety test.
- Please visit our Know Your Rights page for more information.
What should I do first if I am charged with a DUI?
Your safest and most responsible action after being charged with a DUI is to contact a Denver DUI lawyer who can assist you with your case. You should also know that you have only seven days to set up a hearing with the DMV if you submitted to a breath test or refused to take a test. Failure to do so will result in an automatic revocation of your license.
What is the maximum penalty for a DUI first offense?
The maximum penalty for a first offense under DUI laws in Colorado is one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, 96 hours of community service, 2 years of probation and 110 hours of alcohol education and therapy sessions – among other requirements.
What happens if this is my second or third DUI offense?
Colorado DUI laws are more severe for second and third DUI offenses, even if prior DUI convictions occurred in another state. If convicted, you may receive up to one year in jail along with much higher fines than a first conviction would mandate. Second and subsequent offenses also carry mandatory minimum jail. Even if you did not hire a DUI lawyer to help you with your first DUI conviction, it is strongly recommended that you enlist the help of one for your second or third DUI charge.
Why do I need help with my DUI case?
Without the help of an experienced and dedicated DUI attorney in Colorado, you have almost no chance of avoiding a DUI conviction in a criminal court. A capable lawyer from a DUI law firm in Colorado will do everything he or she can to have your DUI charges lessened or dismissed. If a conviction is inevitable, at the very least a DUI lawyer can help reduce the severity of your punishment. Your goal should be obtaining the best possible outcome given the facts of your case.
Can you seal or expunge a DUI/DWAI conviction in Colorado?
If you are found guilty or plead guilty to these crimes as misdemeanors or felonies in Colorado as an adult, you will not have legal recourse to expunge or seal the conviction from your permanent criminal or motor vehicle record, even with the best DUI attorneys. While defendants and their legal counsel can expunge some criminal offenses, such as minor drug convictions, misdemeanors and certain felonies, in all cases, DUI/DWAI convictions are only expunged or sealed for minors and only if the case is prosecuted in a juvenile court.
How long before a DUI/DWAI conviction "falls" off your criminal record and DMV record?
In Colorado, as in most states, Colorado DUI laws state that a conviction will never come off a convicted individual's permanent record. Colorado considers alcohol- or drug-related driving offenses as lifelong offenses and all prior convictions will be used against you for sentencing purposes.
Regardless of what state the conviction took place in or when, it will be considered a prior by the courts for sentencing purposes. Contrary to the criminal courts, the Colorado DMV only considers offenses that either happened in Colorado or happened while you were a Colorado resident. The DMV does go back during the lifetime of the record, but will not count convictions from other states as a resident of that state.
Can I get a "red license" to drive to and from work after a DUI conviction?
No. Probationary driver’s licenses, also known as "red licenses" are not available to people who have had their driving privileges revoked due to a DUI or other drug or alcohol related driving offense. Colorado is not a "right to work" state so you cannot obtain a "red license" if your license is revoked because of a DUI. You may only apply for and obtain a probationary license in the state of Colorado if your license is suspended for excessive points.
What is SR22 and how long do I have to have it?
The Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles in Colorado mandates that those who are convicted of DUI offenses obtain an SR-22 certificate, an endorsement to your current insurance policy that allows providers to formally record any lapse in coverage and keep the DMV notified at all times regarding the status of your insurance.
Colorado residents who file an SR22 need to maintain it for the entire length of time that their license is revoked. However, in some cases, individuals may need to keep their SR22 for longer, such as when they are involved in an accident or have multiple offenses. It is important to understand that SR22 follows the person whereas the liability policy follows the vehicle.
What is ignition interlock and how long do I have to have that in my vehicle(s)?
Starting January 1, 2001, repeat DUI and alcohol offenders are required to have a portable breath testing device, known as an ignition interlock device, attached to their vehicle's ignition system to prevent them from starting the car after drinking alcoholic beverages. Depending on the severity of the offense, Colorado residents could have this device placed on their vehicle for a period of four months to more than five years.
The cops arrested me for DUI, but they never read me my Miranda rights, shouldn’t my case be dismissed?
While this can impact the outcome of the case, a Miranda rights violation will not automatically result in a DUI case to be dismissed. Since these rights only apply to statements, and those made after an individual is in police custody, officers could still testify as to their observations of the events around the case. However, if the officers mounted an interrogation of the individual in their custody without taking this due diligence, any statements made during this time, no matter how damaging, could be excluded from the trial.
What is the "legal limit" in Colorado?
The legal limit in Colorado depends on the age of the offender. For a DWAI, the blood alcohol content (BAC) only needs to be .05 percent for those 21 or older. For a DUI, this figure rises to .08 percent for adults. Minors, however, have a different legal limit. Those under 21 years of age can be charged with Underage Drinking and Driving for having a BAC of .02 percent or higher.
My criminal case got dismissed, why did I still lose my license?
It is important to understand that when arrested and charged with DUI in Colorado, you initiate two types of law: criminal and administrative. The administrative side is the DMV and the criminal side deals with the courts. The outcome of one case does not dictate or change the outcome of the other.
Each of these entities relies on a different burden of proof and must proof different elements to convict you. If your license is revoked by the DMV at the administrative hearing and you later get your criminal case dismissed, your license is not automatically reinstated. To save your license, you must win both the DMV hearing and either get your criminal case dismissed or obtain an outcome on the criminal case that does not result in an automatic revocation or suspension for excessive points.
What are some standard terms and conditions of probation?
Those who are convicted of a Colorado DWAI and DUI offenses may be given a sentence that combines jail time with a probation term beginning immediately upon being sentenced. When a defendant violates probation after a jail sentence, an additional year of jail can be added to the original jail sentence.
Since probation terms are set by the court as part of the probation and overseen by the county or private probation office, the exact conditions can vary. Individuals convicted of a DUI may be mandated to attend Level II Alcohol Education and Therapy Classes, abstain from consuming alcohol during the period of probation and submit to monitored sobriety, attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel, perform community service, pay fines and court costs and not leave the state of Colorado with prior permission from the probation officer or the court.
Can I travel to Canada with a pending DUI case or a DUI conviction?
If you've been convicted of a DUI, DWI, DUI, OUI or other alcohol-related offense in Colorado, it used to be that you had to put your travel plans on hold. Previously, routine screening was conducted by Canadian officials, due in part to the increased security concerns post 9/11, of all travelers looking to cross the border. However, as of March 2012, individuals with one DUI and no other conviction can now enter the country by applying for a Temporary Resident Permit at no additional cost.
Failure to take the proper proactive steps and apply for the TRP could result in you being denied entry into Canada. Legal experts advise that you contact the immigration officers at your chosen point of entry in advance to ensure your travel plans go as smoothly as possible. Officers still take any attempt to lie about the offense seriously and could label you an "inadmissible person" who is unable to visit or stay in the country if you proceed with this unlawful action.
What is the statute of limitations on a DUI?
Under Colorado DUI law, the state must file charges for an unclassified DUI or DWAI misdemeanor case within 18 months of the date the offense occurred. This protection is afforded to the accused, as certain forms of evidence, like witness testimony crucial to the defense, may be less effective after long periods of time. However, if you skip court or fail to address these charges, you will have a bench warrant issued for your arrest. A warrant stays the case and as a result, it will never go away until you come back and address the charges. The statute of limitations does not apply when you abscond or become a fugitive of justice.
If you are pulled over and have been drinking, which test should you take, blood or breath?
Individuals who are arrested for underage drunk driving (UDD), DWAI or a DUI in Colorado are required to take either a blood or breath test within two hours of when they last drove the vehicle, provided there are no extraordinary circumstances that prevent such a test. However, you must choose one of the two tests as your failure to choose a test or comply with the taking of a test will be considered a refusal.
Which test you should take depends greatly on the circumstances. If you have been abstaining from alcohol consumption, a chemical blood analysis test may help prove your innocence as it is generally the more accurate method, if done correctly.
Are Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) voluntary?
Yes. SFSTs, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), walk-and-turn (WAT) and one-leg stand (OLS), are completely voluntary in Colorado. This means that, unlike refusing a chemical test, no additional penalties can be given to those who decline to participate in any of these tests.
Is the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) on the side of the road voluntary?
Yes. PBTs, which should not be confused with mandatory chemical blood and breath tests, are voluntary. However, officers may still request that you submit to this test with one of the many state-approved PBT devices. If you refuse a PBT test, you will still be required to submit to a chemical test within two hours of the arrest. If you choose to decline the PBT, and you should, make sure it is clear to the officer that you are only refusing the PBT, not an official chemical test of your blood or breath.
I found an attorney who only charges $1,200 and he said he has over 30 years of experience, why do you charge so much more?
At The Orr Law Firm, we are Colorado's premier DUI and criminal traffic defense firm, as such; we practice extensively in this area of law. We are one of the most experienced, knowledgeable and well-trained law firms in Denver in the defense of our clients.
We also provide a service that prides itself on knowledge, communication and the cutting-edge training our DUI attorneys receive, and we deliver professional results for clients. We cannot guarantee you an outcome but what we can guarantee you is that we will work hard for you to ensure you receive the best outcome possible given the facts of your case.
I asked to speak with an attorney before choosing a test and the officer told me I couldn't, why not?
Under Colorado law, you do not have the right to consult or speak with an attorney before choosing and taking a chemical test, as the blood and breath tests administered following a DUI or criminal traffic offense are not voluntary.
It is my first DUI; I don't really need an attorney, do I?
Consulting with an experienced and knowledgeable Colorado DUI lawyer following your arrest is always advised, as even if you plan to plead guilty to the charges, the guidance of these experts can affect your sentencing terms and conditions, such as, the fines, community service, alcohol classes, length of probation, monitored sobriety and other penalties you may receive.
Those who don't contact Colorado DUI lawyers may also miss important deadlines, dates and filings. For instance, after receiving a DMV Express Consent Affidavit, individuals need to respond within seven days or they risk the automatic revocation of their driving privileges.
At The Orr Law Firm, we encourage those who are accused of these crimes to contact our knowledgeable DUI attorneys and amazing staff for a FREE consultation regarding how we can meet their legal needs and help them best present their case.
How many points against your driver's license do you get before your license gets suspended?
The state of Colorado lists the specific point accumulations that result in a suspension on its website, however, the exact number of points that cause a suspension varies depending on the age of the individual. Adult drivers, defined as those 21 years or older, cannot accumulate more than 12 points in any 12 consecutive month period or 18 points in any 24 consecutive month period.
Minors, those between the ages of 18 and 21 years of age, cannot receive 9 points in any 12 consecutive months, 12 points in any 24 consecutive months or more than 14 points total from their 18th to their 21st birthday. Those under the age of 18 years old face the tightest restrictions, as these Colorado drivers cannot accumulate more than 6 points in 12 months or 7 points prior to turning 18 years old.
I came to Colorado on vacation and left with a DUI? How does this affect me differently since I am not a Colorado resident?
Individuals who are visiting the state of Colorado are eligible to receive the same penalties as in-state residents for alcohol-related offenses including license suspensions, license revocations and driver's license points. The question of whether or not this charge will affect the accused's driving privileges in their home state, however, is often decided by the outcome of the case.
Due to the Interstate Driver's License Compact (IDLC), 45 states and the District of Columbia share information about arrests and convictions. Still communication issues and the complexity of the guidelines states use for sharing the information could complicate matters. To best determine how this arrest could affect your driving abilities at home, contact one of our Colorado DUI lawyers today.
What level of alcohol classes should I enroll in?
Level II alcohol classes comprise of 24 hours of education and up to 86 additional hours of therapy and are generally given to those who have been convicted of alcohol or drug-related driving infractions.
Level I classes, by comparison, are required for minor drivers who have had their license revoked for a UDD, but can be given by the courts in certain circumstances to those who would have otherwise qualified for a Level II class. As such, this distinction underscores the importance of expert legal guidance, as experienced Colorado attorneys may be able to achieve these results.
What is a PSI or Pre-Sentence Investigation?
A PSI or Pre-Sentence Investigation is often ordered by the court in cases where there are alleged or possible prior offenses and where there is a high BAC. The Court shall not proceed to immediate sentencing if there is not a stipulation to previous convictions or if there is some question regarding the number of prior offenses or the dates of the prior offenses. Because the mandatory minimum sentence in Colorado is dictated based on the number of priors and whether the first and second offense are more than 5 years apart, a PSI or Pre-Sentence Investigation is ordered quite frequently by the courts.
A PSI or Pre-Sentence Investigation is composed of two main areas: An alcohol evaluation and a criminal history check. The probation department will complete both of these requirements and submit a PSI report to the court prior to sentencing with their findings and often times a sentence recommendation. The court will then use this report in determining an appropriate sentence for the defendant.
What does an alcohol evaluation with Probation consist of?
An alcohol evaluation is ordered on almost every alcohol or drug-related driving conviction. This evaluation is usually ordered to be completed with the probation department's alcohol evaluator. The alcohol evaluation is ordered prior to sentencing when the defendant has priors or an aggravated BAC and the court is not comfortable proceeding until they receive the results of the alcohol evaluation.
The evaluation usually consists of a written evaluation in the form of a questionnaire and an in-person interview with the alcohol evaluator. The alcohol evaluator will take the information provided to them on the questionnaire and the personal interview and using a proprietary scoring matrix, like ASUDS, to assess your risk and dependency issues. Prior offenses, social history, mental health issues, prior substance abuse, whether you have abstained from consuming alcohol or drugs since the date of offense, level of defensiveness, remorse, willingness to take responsibility and be accountable for your actions, etc. will all be used to develop a score and factor into the recommendation for treatment.
Contact us Today at (303) 747-4247
The Orr Law Firm is highly skilled in DUI law, with experience from representing several thousand drunk driving and Colorado DUI defense cases. To learn more about The Orr Law Firm and our team of Denver DUI lawyers, call today. We are proud to offer clients a no obligation, FREE consultation to discuss their case and the facts surrounding it.
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