A Beer Glass And A Set Of Keys On A Table

First-Time DUI Consequences in Denver, Colorado

If you’ve been charged with drunk driving or other driving-under-the-influence offenses in Colorado, the consequence can be severe. You may be facing jail time, fines, court costs, mandatory alcohol education, and a permanent criminal record. An experienced DUI defense lawyer can help you beat your criminal charges or get a lighter sentence.

If you’ve been arrested in the past, a first-time DUI arrest is different than most misdemeanors, and the penalties can be harsher. Talk to a Colorado DUI attorney at Weber Law before it’s too late. 

Colorado DUI Laws

The state of Colorado does not have separate offenses for driving under the influence of alcohol or driving under the influence of drugs, like marijuana or cocaine. The same statute covers both offenses. 

DWAI stands for Driving With Abilities Impaired. The police apply this when the individual tests under the legal limit but has been taking drugs or drinking alcohol. 

Legal BAC Limit

It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. If the police determine that your BAC is .15 or higher, you will likely face harsher penalties, even if it’s your first DUI offense. beer next to keys

What Are the Consequences for a First-Time DUI in Denver

There are both administrative and criminal penalties for a first-offense DUI. This is confusing for many people arrested for DUI or DWAI because administrative punishments may apply even if you avoid a DUI conviction.

First DUI Penalties

For a first DUI conviction, you can receive a sentence for:

  • 5 days to 364 days in jail
  • Up to two years probation
  • $100 to $600 in fines
  • 48 to 96 hours of community service
  • Mandatory attendance of an alcohol education program

Administrative penalties include:

  • A 1-year driver’s license suspension or revocation if your BAC is .08 or over.
  • A 9-month driver’s license suspension or revocation if you refuse to give a breath or urine sample upon request.

For a first offense, the penalties for a high-alcohol DUI are similar to the penalties imposed for a standard first DUI conviction.  

First DWAI Penalties

For a first DWAI conviction, you can receive a sentence for:

  • 2 days to 6 months in jail
  • Up to two years probation
  • $200 to $500 in fines
  • 24 to 48 hours of community service
  • Mandatory attendance of an alcohol education program

Administrative penalties include:

  • Eight points on your driver’s license if you’re convicted.

DUI Investigations in Colorado

For the prosecution to get a conviction for DUI in Colorado, the police must adhere to a strict set of protocols. If the arresting officer errs in their investigation, it could help your DUI defense lawyer establish a strategy. Here are the phases of a DUI investigation in Colorado.

Probable Cause for the Stop 

To initiate an investigation, the officer must have a reason to stop you. There are multiple legal reasons that the police can stop you, including:

  • A traffic violation
  • A pattern consistent with driving while impaired
  • The belief that you’re wanted or involved in another crime
  • A legally sanctioned DUI checkpoint

Without a legal reason to stop you, any subsequent evidence the police uncover is inadmissible in court. man blowing into a breathalyser

Physical Observations

The arresting officer must document physical indicators that you were under the influence of alcohol. For instance, bloodshot eyes, puffy skin, sweating, slurred speech, unsteady balance, or the odor of an alcoholic beverage.

Voluntary Roadside Exercises

Many people who have been arrested for a first DUI in Colorado are surprised to learn after the fact that the roadside exercises are voluntary — either because they didn’t hear the officer mention it during the investigation or because it was left out of the explanation.

This is an important point because the police usually video the results, and the recording rarely helps the defendant. Officers are supposed to conduct all tests on a clean, well-lit surface. They should also ask about any disabilities the driver may have that would prevent them from performing the exercises. The sanctioned exercises are:

  • Walk-and-turn – The subject takes nine heel-to-toe steps, turns, and walks back for nine steps.
  • One-leg stand – The subject raises either foot and counts from 1,001 to 1,030. 
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) – The subject follows the point of a pen or other object. This tests the smooth pursuit of their eyes.


If you refuse to perform roadside exercises, the officers can still make an arrest based on their earlier observations. If you performed roadsides with your ability impaired, they are likely to make an arrest at this point. 

Implied Consent 

As a condition of operating a vehicle on Colorado roadways, you have given your implied consent to take a breath test or provide a urine sample on demand. The police will remind you of this implied obligation and ask for your express consent for a BAC test. If you refuse, your license will be automatically suspended for a year for the first offense. 

However, if you provide a sample and it shows that your BAC is .08 or higher, you have provided the prosecution with a crucial piece of evidence. In either event, the police will issue you a temporary permit that’s good for seven days. You may be able to get your license reinstated at a DMV hearing.

BAC Testing

The police will take you to the booking facility or to a blood-alcohol testing center to get a breath test. If you take the test and your BAC is lower than they believed, they may ask for urine, which will show illicit or prescription drugs if there are any in your system. Even if you are not over the legal limit, the prosecution can still seek a DWAI conviction. 

This process may vary in other states. If you’ve been arrested for DUI outside Colorado, seek out a DUI attorney in your area. 

How a DUI Lawyer Can Help You with a DUI First Offense

Attorneys who handle alcohol-related driving violations and drug-related driving offenses are familiar with the effective defenses for these types of cases. As you can see from the above-listed protocols, there is significant room for police error during an investigation for DUI in Colorado.

Once your attorney is aware of the evidence against you and the circumstances of your arrest, they can look for weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Was the stop valid? Did the officer tell you that the roadside exercises were voluntary? Were you coerced into giving a breath sample? There are many angles of attack that DUI defense lawyers can take.

If it turns out that the case against you is solid and it’s your first offense, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecution. They can help you avoid stiffer penalties like jail time or probation. Instead, you may have to just pay fines and work community service hours. 

An attorney can also help you get your driving privileges restored or at least help you obtain a restricted license for work or school.

FAQs About First-Time DUI in Colorado  

These are some of the most common questions we hear about DUI at Weber Law. To have your questions answered and achieve peace of mind about your arrest, call our Denver law office today. 

What Are the Administrative and Criminal Penalties for a First DUI and DWAI in Colorado?

Penalties can include jail, fines, and probation. Additional consequences include license suspension or revocation. The suspension or revocation period depends on whether you had a BAC of .08 or higher or refused to provide a sample.

While you could receive jail time, unless there are aggravating factors, you are more likely to receive a lighter penalty, like home detention or hours of public service. 

Do You Lose Your License Immediately After a DUI in Colorado?

In most cases, your driving privileges are automatically suspended, but you will be issued a seven-day temporary permit, and you may have your license reinstated in an administrative hearing. You may also qualify for a restricted license under Colorado law. 

If you refuse to provide a sample, you can only receive a restricted license after you complete a Level II Alcohol and Drug Education treatment program. You will also have to have an ignition interlock device for a mandatory minimum of two years after your license is reinstated. 

DUI Lawyer in Denver, Colorado

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it’s time to contact a professional DUI law firm. Alcohol-related driving offenses can follow you for the rest of your life. Don’t hesitate to protect your future. Call Weber Law today!

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