Driving Under The Influence
DUI. Driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs is known as “DUI.”
DWAI. Driving a vehicle while “ability impaired” by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs is referred to as “DWAI.”
DUI per se. Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more is called “DUI per se.”
Under the influence. A person is considered “under the influence” if substantial impairment affects the person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. If a defendant’s BAC is .08% or more, it’s inferred that the person was under the influence of alcohol.
Ability impaired. “Ability impaired” means the person is only slightly impaired. A defendant is presumed to be DWAI if a chemical test shows a BAC of more than .05% but less than .08%.
Driving a vehicle. For purposes of Colorado’s impaired driving laws, “drive” and “drove” mean to exercise “actual physical control” over a vehicle, even if it’s not actually moving. Under that definition, a person can be convicted of DUI, DWAI, or DUI per se without actually driving a vehicle.
Colorado's Drugged Driving Laws
Under Colorado law, drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI). However, because there is no roadside device to detect THC, law enforcement officers—many trained as drug recognition experts (DREs)—base arrests on observed impairment. Even people who use marijuana for medicinal purposes can be arrested for DUI.
An impaired driving arrest typically leads to administrative (license related) penalties. And if the offender is convicted of DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI in court, there are also criminal penalties imposed in addition to the administrative consequences.
The criminal penalties imposed depends on whether the defendant is convicted of DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI. Generally, penalties are less severe for a first DWAI conviction than those imposed for DUI or DUI per se convictions. However, once an offender has a prior conviction, the penalties for DUI, DUI per se, and DWAI are the same.
Additionally, penalties typically increase depending on whether the offender has prior impaired driving convictions. The chart below details the minimum and maximum penalties for first, second, and third DUI, DUI per se, and DWAI conviction.
Penalties Imposed for Convictions
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In Colorado, there are three categories of impaired driving: