Understanding the Difference Between DUI and DWAI in Colorado

In Colorado, driving after consuming alcohol or drugs can lead to a DWAI or DUI. This article explains the fundamental differences between the two charges. If you have been charged with either a DWAI or DUI, you should contact an experienced Denver DUI attorney immediately. A DWAI or DUI conviction can result in fines, raised car insurance premiums, reputational damage, participation in mandatory community service and drug and alcohol education programs, and even jail time. For these reasons and more, you need a skilled attorney.

DUI Stands for Driving Under the Influence

In Colorado, DUI stands for driving under the influence. Driving refers to the driving of a car, truck, bicycle, or other vehicle. Influence refers to the effects of alcohol, drugs, or a combination.  Influence is measured in terms of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). BAC is most commonly measured by a breathalyzer – a device one blows into.

In Colorado, there are two important measurements with regard to DUI and DWAI: .08 and .05. If your BAC is .08 or more, the law presumes that you were driving while under the influence.  This is the case even if you have a high tolerance, and did not subjectively consider yourself to have experienced any mental or physical effects. In other words, the measurement is objective.  The presumption of DUI arising from a .08 BAC may be rebutted, with evidence of faulty testing or equipment, for example, but this requires the skill of an experienced Colorado DUI attorney.  Absent property damages or personal injuries caused by an accident, DUI is classified as a misdemeanor in Colorado.  The penalties for even a misdemeanor, however, are serious and include up to one year of jail time, a fine of as much as $1,000, up to 96 hours of public services, probation, mandatory alcohol and drug monitoring, compulsory attendance at a victim impact panel, and additional fees.

DWAI Stands for Driving While Ability Impaired

In Colorado, DWAI stands for Driving While Ability Impaired, and is a lesser charge to DUI. If your BAC is at least .05, you can be convicted of DWAI. As with DUI, crossing the BAC threshold results in the law presuming that your ability to operate your vehicle was impaired. As with DUI, conviction for DWAI – a misdemeanor if a first-time offense – is subject to harsh penalties, including up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, as many as 48 days of public services, probation, fees, mandatory drug and alcohol evaluation, and compulsory attendance at a victim impact panel.

What to do if You Have Been Charged with DWAI or DUI in Colorado

If you have been charged with DWAI or DUI in Colorado, contact a skilled and experienced Denver DUI defense attorney. An experienced attorney will closely scrutinize the state’s charges against you, explain your legal options, and work to rebut the state’s presumption and have the charges reduced or altogether dismissed.  

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