What Are the Penalties for a Felony DUI or DWAI in Colorado?

In Colorado, when you drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUI) or drive when your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by consuming alcohol and/or drugs (DWAI), you can be charged with a traffic misdemeanor.

Generally, DUI means that you drove after you had consumed alcohol, drugs, or both, and you were “substantially incapable” of exercising “clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care” in operating your vehicle.

DWAI means that you drove after you had consumed alcohol, drugs, or both, and you were impaired to the “slightest degree,” making you less able than you normally would be to exercise “clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care” in operating your vehicle.

Possible Punishments for Felony DUI or DWAI

While, for first time offenses, DUI and DWAI carry different penalties: both for your drivers license and other collateral consequences (probation, classes, community service, costs, and even jail), for subsequent offenses, DUI and DWAI carry the same penalties (mandatory jail, loss of license, and heightened other penalties).

If you are charged with a DUI or DWAI and you have three or more prior alcohol/drug related driving convictions, you can be charged with a class four felony, with the potential of facing time in prison. The law is written so that it does not matter the age of the convictions or if those convictions were from another state.

Probation:

Under Colorado law, the presumption is that you should receive treatment under supervised probation. If the court were to sentence you to probation for Felony DUI/DWAI, you must first serve time in jail, the court has 2 options for the imposition of that jail:

  1. Sentence you to a jail sentence of at least 90 days and up to 180 days in jail. If you were to be sentenced to this option, the first 90 days of that sentence are “mandatory,” meaning you cannot earn “good time” (you cannot earn time off that portion of the sentence for staying out of trouble), cannot earn “trusty” status (you cannot earn time off the portion of that sentence for working in the jail), and cannot participate in work release. You would be eligible to participate in those programs above after the mandatory 90 days have been served.
  2. Sentence you to jail sentence of at least 120 days and up to two years in jail. If you were to be sentenced to this option, you can serve the initial 120 day portion of your sentence under limited release to work at a job you have at the time of sentencing, to attend school at which you are enrolled at the time of sentencing, or to participate in court-ordered alcohol/drug classes or treatment. Under this option you are not eligible for “good time” or “trusty” status until after the mandatory 120 days.

After you serve the jail time, then you would start your probation sentence. That would entail completing community service, classes, treatment, paying costs, and reporting to a probation officer for a specified period of time.

Community Corrections:

The court has the discretion to sentence you to Community Corrections, otherwise known as a halfway house, for a specified period of time. If you were sentenced under this option, you would live with other inmates in a monitored housing environment. You may be required to pay rent, maintain a job, attend treatment, abide by the rules, and various other requirements depending on the facility to which you are accepted. If you were to violate any of the terms of that facility’s contract with you, you could be kicked out and end up in prison.

Department of Corrections:

The court has the discretion to sentence you to the Department of Corrections (DOC). If the judge were to sentence you to prison, depending on your past criminal history and your circumstances when you committed felony DUI/DWAI, the court could sentence you up to 12 years in prison with 3 years of mandatory parole. Generally, however, the average person who is receiving a first time DOC sentence is sentenced to 2 to 6 years in prison with 3 years of mandatory parole.

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