Driving Under the Influence (DUI) occurs when someone drives a car after drinking alcohol or using drugs. If you are facing a DUI arrest for the first time, the penalties that you may face can have a significant impact on your life.
While the consequences of a DUI conviction can be severe, understanding the laws and what your options are can help you determine your next steps.
At Wolf Law LLC, we are on your side. Our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys offers you diligent and compassionate advocacy. When you hire us, we will fight tirelessly to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your DUI case.
What is Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?
Under Colorado law, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious offense. DUI refers to operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. This can include impairment due to prescription medications and illegal substances.
The legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) in Colorado is 0.08 percent for individuals over 21 years of age and 0.02 percent for those under 21.
The specific penalties for a first offense DUI may vary. They are determined by factors like your blood alcohol content (BAC) level at the time of arrest and any aggravating circumstances.
For drivers under the age of 21 with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) between 0.02 and 0.05, there is a potential charge for Underage Drinking and Driving (UDD). If you are under 21 and your BAC is 0.05 or higher, you may face the same legal charges as an adult.
Are You Required to Consent to DUI Testing?
Under Colorado’s Express Consent law, when you operate a vehicle in Colorado, you are agreeing to undergo chemical tests when law enforcement suspects you are impaired.
What if you choose not to undergo chemical tests? You will be designated as a Persistent Drunk Driver (PDD) and required to use an ignition interlock device for a minimum of 2 years, the use of which is mandatory whether or not you are convicted of impaired driving in a court of law. Additionally, you may receive an automatic license revocation.
Can You Get a First Offense DUI Charge in Colorado If You Were Not Driving?
In Colorado, you can be charged with a first offense DUI even if you were not driving at the time of the incident. In fact, Colorado law defines DUI as operating or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
So, what does “actual physical control” mean? It means that even if you were not actively driving the vehicle but had the opportunity and intention to drive, you can still be charged with DUI.
This is where things can get complicated. The term “actual physical control” is open to interpretation. It can depend on various factors, such as whether the keys were in the ignition, your location in the vehicle, and other circumstances.
Steps to Take After Being Charged With a First Offense DUI
After being charged with a first offense DUI in Colorado, it is important to take immediate action.
Here are some steps you should consider:
- Contact an experienced Colorado defense attorney: When facing a DUI charge, having the right legal representation is crucial. A skilled attorney can guide you through the legal process and build a strong defense on your behalf.
- Understand your rights: Familiarize yourself with your rights as someone accused of a DUI offense. Your attorney can explain these to you and ensure they are protected throughout the proceedings.
- Gather information about your case: Take note of any details surrounding your arrest, such as the circumstances leading up to it, field sobriety test results, etc. This information will be valuable to your attorney when building your defense.
- Attend all court hearings: Make sure to appear at all scheduled court hearings. While attending, follow any instructions given by the judge or your attorney.
Importance of Hiring an Experienced Colorado Defense Attorney
The criminal justice system can be complex and overwhelming. The aftermath of a first offense DUI can be challenging and stressful.
The right defense attorney will understand the nuances of Colorado DUI laws. He or she can guide you through both the DMV administrative process and the judicial process.
There are many strategies a defense attorney can employ to defend your case, such as:
- Challenging the traffic stop: Attorneys may scrutinize the legality of the initial traffic stop. If the stop was not based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause, evidence gathered afterward may be suppressed.
- Field sobriety tests: Attorneys can challenge the administration and interpretation of field sobriety tests. It could be argued that your tests were conducted improperly or that external factors influenced the results.
- Breathalyzer or blood tests: Defense attorneys may question the reliability and accuracy of chemical tests like breathalyzers and blood tests. There may be issues with the maintenance of testing equipment, improper breath testing procedures, qualifications of the technician, or chain of custody.
- Rising blood alcohol defense: This defense argues that the driver’s BAC was below the legal limit while driving but had risen above the limit by the time they were tested. This can be relevant if there is a delay between your driving and testing.
- Medical conditions or medications: What if you have a medical condition or must take medications? It could be that you merely displayed symptoms similar to that of impairment.
- Violation of Miranda rights: If law enforcement fails to read you the Miranda warning before a custodial interrogation, any statements made by you may be inadmissible in court.
Being charged with a first offense DUI does not define you as a person. With an experienced defense lawyer on your side, you can rest assured knowing that there is someone fighting diligently for your rights and working towards obtaining the best possible outcome for your case.
What Happens at a DMV Hearing for a First Offense DUI in Colorado?
At a Colorado DMV hearing for a first offense DUI, several outcomes can happen. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether there was reasonable suspicion to contact you, probable cause for your arrest/asking you to take a chemical test of your breath or blood, and whether you should be placed under driving restrictions.
During the DMV hearing, a hearing officer will review the evidence presented by both sides. This includes testimony from the arresting officer and any witnesses, as well as any other relevant documents or information.
The DMV hearing is separate from any criminal court proceedings you may face. However, it is advisable to have a DUI defense lawyer attend with you.
Will You Get a Criminal Record for a First Offense DUI in Colorado?
If convicted of a first offense DUI in Colorado, you will have a criminal record. This can have significant and long-lasting consequences, affecting your employment prospects, housing opportunities, and other aspects of your life.
However, there are ways to potentially avoid a criminal record for a first offense DUI in Colorado. One option is to negotiate for an alternative charge or other sentencing alternative, though it is rare to avoid an alcohol-related driving conviction entirely.
Another option is to aggressively fight the charges with the help of an experienced DUI defense attorney. He or she may be able to challenge the evidence against you and possibly get your charges reduced or dismissed.
Alternative Sentencing Options for First Offense DUI Offenders
A first-time DUI offense in Colorado is classified as a misdemeanor offense. The potential jail sentence for it ranges from a few days to a maximum of 1 year. The actual jail time served can be affected by various factors, including plea negotiations and participation in alcohol education or treatment programs.
Fines to pay
A conviction of a first-time DUI can result in a fine of up to $1,000.
Additionally, there may be other fines, fees, and surcharges you will have to cover, such as:
- Victim Assistance fund
- Victim Compensation fund
- Alcohol treatment evaluation fee
- Law Enforcement Assistance Fund
- Traumatic Brain Injury Fund
- Persistent Drunk Driving (PDD) surcharge
- Probation supervision fee
- Other fees imposed at the court’s discretion
There are also alternative sentencing options available for drunk driving offenders. The following penalties aim to provide rehabilitation and education rather than simply sending the individual to jail.
Probation and community service
For their first DUI offense, individuals may be placed on probation for 1 to 2 years. Probation often includes conditions like regular check-ins with a probation officer and compliance with court-ordered requirements.
You may also be required to complete up to 96 hours of community service as part of your sentence.
License suspension and revocation
A license revocation is a temporary loss of driving privileges. A first-time DUI conviction can result in a 9-month license suspension.
You can reinstate early with an ignition interlock device as well as other conditions such as insurance endorsement, class enrollment, and fees.
An Ignition Interlock Device (IID):
To regain driving privileges after a revocation, first time DUI offenders may be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their vehicle.
This device measures your BAC and prevents your vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected. The IID is usually mandatory for a specific period as part of the reinstatement process.
Alcohol education classes and Victim Impact Panels (VIP)
Completion of alcohol education classes is typically mandated for first time DUI offenders. The specific program will be assigned after an alcohol evaluation conducted by the probation department. Typically up front classes will be followed by group therapy. Additionally, victim impact panels are required for first-time DUI offenses.
Wolf Law LLC — Restoring Hope and Defending Your Future
At Wolf Law LLC, we understand the stress and uncertainty of a DUI accusation. Our compassionate attorneys are here to provide aggressive defense on your behalf.
As a full-service criminal defense law firm, our team of skilled lawyers at Wolf Law LLC is diligent in building a strong defense for our clients. We take pride in our dedication to achieving the best possible outcome for every case we handle.
We have extensive experience handling cases involving all types of DUI offenses, from misdemeanor charges to felony DUI offenses. In addition to providing aggressive representation in court and during DMV hearings, we will work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected.
If you or someone you know has been accused of a first offense DUI in Colorado, contact our attorneys at Wolf Law LLC. Call (720) 479-8574 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation. With proper legal representation from Wolf Law LLC by your side, you can overcome these legal difficulties and move forward with confidence.