Colorado DUI & DWAI: The Differences & Legal Consequences

The differences between Colorado DUI and DWAI charges and penalties are subtle. Call us for affordable SR-22 quotes today!

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Colorado DUI & DWAI: The Differences & Legal Consequences

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Colorado DUI (driving under the influence) and DWAI (driving while ability impaired) are serious driving offenses with harsh legal consequences. Whether it was a first-time lapse in judgment after an innocent night out or a repeat offense, these charges have potentially life-altering effects.

Have you ever wondered what happens when faced with a Colorado DUI or DWAI charge? If so, we’ll explore all the consequences – before, during, and after. This article sheds light on everything from blood alcohol concentration limits to possible penalties that tarnish reputations and impact future opportunities.

Distinctions Between DUI and DWAI

Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while ability impaired (DWAI) are severe motor vehicle violations in Colorado. However, there are distinct differences between the two offenses.

1. DUI

  • States usually base DUI charges on a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) being above 0.08%.
  • DUI involves harsher penalties compared to a DWAI conviction.
  • Depending on the circumstances or prior offenses, drivers can face fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, probation periods, and even jail time.


The state considers driving while ability impaired (DWAI) a lesser offense.

  • It applies when a driver has consumed enough alcohol or drugs to impair their ability to operate a vehicle safely but still has a BAC below 0.08%.
  • Penalties for DWAI convictions may include lower fines, shorter license suspensions, counseling requirements rather than mandatory education programs, and less jail time, if any.

Legal Elements of Colorado DUI DWAI

Understanding the physiological effects of driving under the influence/driving while ability-impaired helps us understand the legal consequences. Colorado DUI  laws use blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits to define these violations. Please be aware of these thresholds and always prioritize responsible drinking habits when operating any vehicle on the roadways.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC):

  • The state uses BAC to measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream.
  • The legal BAC limit for Colorado drivers aged 21 and older is 0.08%.
  • For drivers under 21, any detectable amount of alcohol in their system results in DUI charges.

Impaired Driving Offenses:

  • The legal threshold for a Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) offense is between 0.05% and less than 0.08% BAC.
  • A DWAI charge carries lighter penalties than a DUI charge but can still have significant consequences.
  • Commercial vehicle drivers face stricter limits, with a legal BAC limit of 0.04%.

Increased Penalties:

  • It’s important to note that higher BAC levels can result in enhanced penalties if convicted of a Colorado DUI or DWAI offense.
  • A BAC level over 0.15% in Colorado has harsher consequences, including mandatory minimum jail time and increased fines.
  • Repeat offenders may also face harsher penalties regardless of their blood alcohol concentration.

Judge in Colorado courtroom issuing a drunk driving sentence.

Navigating the Legal Fallout of Drunk or Ability-Impaired Driving

The legal impacts of a conviction for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated can be challenging. These are some of the penalties you may face:

1. License Suspension: The state may suspend your driver’s license for at least nine months, potentially leaving you without reliable transportation to work or school.

2. Fines and Court Costs: In addition to potential attorney fees, first-time offenders will pay fines ranging from $600 to $1,000 or higher.

3. Probation: You may be placed on probation for up to two years, requiring regular check-ins with a probation officer while adhering to strict rules and conditions.

4. Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Requirements: If convicted of certain offenses, installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle, at your expense, will be mandatory.

5. Alcohol Education Classes: A mandatory substance abuse program and community service obligations are often part of the sentence.

6. Criminal Record: A felony DUI conviction could mar your permanent public record and impact future employment opportunities and financial prospects.

7. Increased Insurance Rates: The need for Colorado SR-22 insurance causes car insurance premiums to skyrocket after a drug or alcohol-related motor vehicle offense.

The consequences of alcohol and drug-related traffic violations extend beyond immediate fines and penalties. They affect all areas of life—personal relationships, professional reputation, and finances. Depending on the specific circumstances of your charge, you may want to seek immediate legal counsel.

Colorado DOR Driver Services Resources

A young man researching Colorda DUI DWAI on his laptop and reading a text on his cell phone.

SR-22 Insurance in Colorado for License Reinstatement

We know you’ve got a lot on your plate after a Colorado DUI or DWAI conviction. UltraCar Insurance specializes in Colorado SR-22 insurance filings for car owners and non-owners. We’ll make your license reinstatement process as easy and painless as possible at an affordable rate. Need to install an ignition interlock device? We’ve got you covered with a discounted Intoxalock® IID installation. Call us today at 888-551-1991 and save money. There are no SR-22 filing or brokerage fees! You can also contact us here or start an online quote!

This article was last updated on April 11th, 2024 by