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.
A conviction on felony charges carries much harsher implications than a felony, with longer incarceration terms, higher fines, and consequences that can affect your life well after you served your sentence. You can trust a knowledgeable Colorado felony DUI attorney to assist with your defense, but a background may also be useful.
Overview of Colorado Drunk Driving Statutes
There are two laws related to drunk driving in Colorado:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI), if a chemical test reveals that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was in excess of .08 percent; or,
- Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), if alcohol has affected your judgment and abilities to such an extent that you’re unable to safely operate the vehicle.
In addition, Colorado has implemented a hybrid approach for BAC levels that are within a certain range. If a chemical test reveals that your BAC is between .05 and .07 percent – and you also demonstrate signs of impairment – you can also be arrested for drunk driving.
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.
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.
Consult with an Experienced Defense Lawyer Regarding Felony DUI in Colorado
Regardless of how many times you have been arrested for drunk driving in Colorado, it’s essential to retain a skilled attorney to help you right the charges. To learn more about your defense options, please contact Miller Leonard, PC. We can schedule a consultation to review your circumstances and develop a strategy for obtaining the best possible outcome in your case.