In the state of Colorado, DUI can be both a felony and a misdemeanor. Neither is particularly good to have on your record. Both create serious potential problems for you. You should hire a criminal lawyer when you’re being accused of either. A lawyer can help mitigate some of the damage a DUI will do to your criminal record.
Every US state has had drunk driving statutes on the books for decades, but you may be surprised to learn that Colorado only recently enacted a law that cracks down on repeat offenders.
Starting in 2015, the state implemented a system that increases the charges and punishment for subsequent violations of drunk driving laws. After multiple convictions, it is even possible that you could get a felony DUI in Colorado.
Miller Leonard, PC has helped thousands of our clients see reductions in their charges. If you’ve been caught driving under the influence, you need a lawyer who understands how mistakes happen and will plead your case before the judge.
What Exactly is a DUI in Colorado?
According to Colorado’s drunk driving laws, a driver is charged with a DUI or a DUAI when:
● A driver’s BAC (blood alcohol level) is greater than .05;
● Or a driver’s blood contains more than 5 nanograms delta-9 THC.
These tests are generally administered at the scene. Additionally, a driver may be subject to stiffer penalties or classified as a persistent drunk driver if their BAC is found to be over .15.
For a first-time offender, both DUI and DWAI are charged as misdemeanor offenses. Though the penalties increase for second and third convictions, the crime is still considered a misdemeanor. Your fourth arrest will trigger harsher charges.
Misdemeanor DUI Charges in Colorado
A DUI will be classified as a misdemeanor offense if the following are true:
● The driver has never been arrested for DUI in the past;
● The driver has no more than two prior DUIs;
● Or the driver was not involved in an accident that resulted in injuries
To explain further, the law will consider how many times you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence. If it’s either less than two or your first time, then you are more likely to qualify for a misdemeanor.
However, if you, as the driver, caused serious bodily injury or death to another person while operating a motor vehicle under the influence, then you can be charged with a stiffer penalty, including a felony.
Felony DUI Charges in Colorado
A driver can be charged with a felony DUI if either of the following is true:
● The driver has a minimum of three prior DUI convictions;
● Or the driver caused an accident while under the influence that resulted in serious bodily injuries or death to another person.
When determining how many prior DUI’s a driver has, DUI’s from other states can be considered against the defendant.
How Colorado Felony DUI Laws Work
When you have three qualifying drunk driving convictions in your past, you will likely face felony charges for a subsequent arrest. Note that both DUI and DWAI convictions count against you, regardless of how far in your past they occurred.
Plus, you still accumulate qualifying convictions if you were convicted on drunk driving charges in another state. The key is looking at the specifics of the charges, your punishment, and other factors regarding the other state’s laws.
Another way you could be charged with felony DUI in Colorado is if you were involved with an accident that leads to the death or harm to another individual. Vehicular homicide is defined as driving a motor vehicle in reckless manner, including drunk driving, and causing a fatal accident.
Vehicular assault is the same offense, except that your conduct resulted in serious bodily harm to another person. With both offenses, your history of prior drunk driving convictions is not relevant.
Penalties for a Colorado DUI Felony Conviction
A fourth DUI is a Class 4 Felony, so a conviction on the charges may include:
- A presumptive sentence range of 2-6 years in prison;
- Three years of mandatory parole;
- A minimum fine of $2,000 and maximum fine of $5,000; and,
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicles.
The term “presumptive” in sentencing means that a judge may consider aggravating and mitigating factors when determining your term of incarceration. Your sentence may be longer or shorter than the 2-6 years stated. In issuing a sentence, a judge must also state that incarceration is the most suitable penalty – which could lead to defense arguments in your favor.
An Experienced Colorado DUI Attorney Can Help
While you could potentially be looking at very stiff penalties in Colorado for driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or even drugs for which you have a prescription, an experienced DUI attorney can help reduce your charges and explain your situation to the judge.
Sentences can be reduced when a defendant promises to get the help they need by entering themselves into a treatment program.
DUI is a serious charge, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the office of Miller Leonard, PC at (720) 613-8783 or contact us online, and we can begin preparing your defense right away.