Driving under the influence (DUI)

What are the penalties for DUI?

The penalties for DUI depend on the number of prior DUI convictions.

For a first DUI conviction, there is a possible jail penalty of between 5 days and 1 year.  The jail may be suspended on the condition that a level I or level II treatment program is completed.  If there is a BAC of 0.20 or higher, then there is a mandatory minimum 10 days jail, although the jail may be served as in-home detention or work-release.  There is a maximum 2 years possible period of probation.  Additionally, there is an optional fine of between $600 and $1,000, and there is a mandatory requirement of 48 to 96 hours community service.

For a second DUI conviction, there is a mandatory penalty of 10 days jail and a maximum 1 year jail.  The 10 days jail may be served as in-home detention, unless the second DUI conviction is within 5 years of the date of the first DUI.  There is a mandatory period of 2 to 4 years probation, with up to 1 year jail suspended for a violation of probation.  There is an optional fine of between $600 and $1,500, and a mandatory order for community service between 48 and 120 hours.

For a third DUI conviction, there is a mandatory minimum of 60 days jail and a maximum penalty of 1 year jail.  In-home detention is unavailable, although the judge may authorize work-release, or release from the jail for educational or medical purposes.  The probation, fine, and community service requirements function the same as a second DUI.

A fourth or subsequent conviction for DUI is a class 4 felony.  A class 4 felony is punishable by probation, community corrections, or state prison.  If the judge sentences to probation, then there is a mandatory 90 to 180 day jail sentence, which cannot be in-home detention or work-release.  Alternatively, there is a 120 day to 2 year jail sentence with work-release authorized or release from the jail for educational purposes.  If the judge does not sentence to probation, or if there is a violation of probation, then the judge could sentence between 2 and 6 years community corrections or prison.  Extraordinary mitigating circumstances could reduce the sentence to 1 year, and aggravating circumstances could increase the sentence to up to 12 years.  There is a mandatory 3 years parole if a person is sentenced to prison.

In addition to the consequences listed above, a DUI conviction results in the suspension of your driver's license.  Even prior to conviction, in some cases you may temporarily lose your driver's license depending on the outcome of a DMV hearing.  The length of license suspension depends on your driving history and the facts of the case.  Additionally, a DUI conviction results in the assessment of multiple court costs and surcharges.  Finally, it is important to understand that a DUI conviction cannot be sealed in Colorado!

What about DWAI? And does it still matter if my dui is twenty years old?

DWAI, or "Driving While Ability Impaired," is a lesser offense of DUI.  A conviction for DWAI results in marginally more lenient penalties for a first offense.  The maximum jail penalty is 6 months instead of 1 year.  The optional fine is $200 to $500 instead of $600 to $1,000.  And the mandatory community service is 24 to 48 hours instead of 48 to 96 hours.  For a second, third, fourth, or subsequent offense, it does not matter if the new or prior conviction is DWAI.  Therefore, while DWAI may sound better than DUI, a good DUI defense attorney knows that a DUI case must be approached with an eye toward beating both DUI and the lesser offense of DWAI.  

Unfortunately, it does not matter if the DUI or DWAI is old, or out of state.  If you are facing a DUI charge, retaining a skilled DUI defense attorney is the best way to protect your liberty.

What will a DUI attorney do to help me defend against a DUI?

There are a number of ways to defend against a DUI. 

The most obvious defense to DUI or DWAI is to challenge the government's claim that you were too impaired to drive.  An experienced DUI attorney understands how to analyze the government's evidence and investigate the facts to show that you were not actually impaired while driving.  A skilled DUI attorney will understand the science behind chemical testing of the blood and breath for alcohol and other drugs, and can effectively challenge the state's testing.  Additionally, a good DUI attorney also knows that there are a variety of reasons why you might refuse to testing.  The government will argue that this means you are guilty, so it is important to get a criminal defense attorney who can show why this is mistaken.

Another common defense to DUI is to challenge the state's claim that you were driving.  Many people are arrested for DUI for simply being in their car when they are intoxicated.  Even with the car not in motion, you might still be convicted of DUI.  If you weren't driving, then it doesn't matter how intoxicated you might have been.  A good DUI attorney is necessary to explain why you didn't exercise sufficient control over the car to be guilty of DUI.

You may also be found not guilty of DUI or have the case dismissed prior to trial if the police failed to properly investigate the case or if your constitutional rights were violated.  A good criminal defense attorney understands all the constitutional rights at stake.  If you were improperly pulled over in a traffic stop, or arrested without probable cause, then you may get your case dismissed.  The police may also investigate the case in manner that results in the claimed evidence of intoxication being unreliable.  Just because you were pulled over and arrested does not mean you are guilty.

I blew above the legal limit.  What's the point in getting an attorney?

No matter what the evidence might look like to you, a skilled DUI defense attorney may find problems with the prosecution's case.  DUI cases can be complex.  Only an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can assess the evidence for a weakness.  A breath or blood test may not be admissible if proper procedures were not followed.  Even if the test is admissible, a jury may not find it reliable if it is not performed properly.  Furthermore, the police need to have probable cause in order to administer the test in the first place.  

Even if you are convicted of DUI, there are a wide range of options for the judge at sentencing.  DUIs are considered to be serious offenses by Colorado courts.  A good DUI attorney should always be consulted when facing a DUI. 


Thomas Cantley has handled numerous DUI cases, and has experience in trial on both felony and misdemeanor accusations.

Thomas Cantley has experience cross-examining the state's top experts about impairment from drugs and alcohol and the administration of chemical tests.  Thomas has given multiple trainings on DUI cases focusing on subjects like chemical testing and the scientific literature on marijuana impairment.  Additionally, Thomas has successfully defended first, second, third, and felony DUIs, as well as serious felony cases like vehicular homicide.

Thomas has obtained dismissal of multiple DUI cases prior to trial, both for insufficient evidence and for violations of people's constitutional rights.  Thomas has successfully excluded chemical tests, and Thomas has won multiple not guilty verdicts for DUI/DWAI at trial, including both felony and misdemeanor accusations, and in cases with tests above the legal limit.  


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Denver, Colorado 80210

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