Drunk driving continues to be a stubborn problem in Colorado just as it remains highly problematic in the rest of the United States. In the past six years alone, nearly 1,000 people have lost their lives in Colorado as a result of alcohol-involved motor vehicle collisions.
State Drunk Driving Laws
Being impaired by either alcohol or drugs and operating a motor vehicle is of course illegal in this state. The following is a brief look at how Colorado drunk driving laws are categorized:
Driving Under the Influence
A driver is deemed to be driving “under the influence” when their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or greater. (The BAC limit for drivers under 21 is 0.02.) You can also be charged with a DUI in Colorado if you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or other chemical test when asked to do so by law enforcement. Operating a non-motorized vehicle such as a bicycle while substantially impaired can also lead to a DUI under state law. DUI laws also apply to the use of marijuana and essentially all other drugs.
Driving While Ability Impaired
A driver in Colorado who is pulled over with a BAC of less than 0.08 but greater than 0.05 is presumed to be driving while ability impaired (DWAI), but you can also be charged where there is impairment to the “slightest degree” even if the BAC is less than 0.05. Although less serious than a DUI charge, a DWAI charge can nonetheless have major consequences, especially after multiple offenses. A first-time DWAI charge can result in two to 180 days in jail, a $200 to $500 fine, community service, driver’s license suspension, or any combination of the foregoing. Unlike a DUI, a DWAI doesn’t automatically trigger a driver’s license suspension.
DUI Per Se
Operating a motor vehicle in Colorado with a BAC of 0.08 or greater can lead to a conviction for DUI per se. The term “per se” simply means that driving with a BAC that high is inherently dangerous and thus punished accordingly. Unlike a DUI charge, a DUI per se charge requires a breath or blood test to be administered.
Criminal, Administrative, and Civil Law Impacts of Drunk Driving
In Colorado, driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs can lead to the imposition of both criminal and administrative penalties. Criminal penalties are imposed by a court of law while administrative penalties are imposed by the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles or other state agency. Examples of criminal penalties include fines, court costs, imprisonment, community service, and court-mandated substance abuse treatment or education. In contrast, administrative penalties can include the suspension or revocation of your driving privileges and points assessed on your driver’s license.
In the civil litigation context, drunk drivers can cause serious, life-altering injuries when they cause a motor vehicle accident. If a person causes an accident while drunk driving, they may have to pay punitive damages (called exemplary damages in Colorado) to the person or persons that they injure. These damages are awarded by a jury in addition to compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate a person for their injuries, whereas punitive damages are meant to punish the drunk driver for their reckless actions and deter others from acting the same way. Experienced trial attorneys, like those at Whalen Hersh, will work to investigate an accident and present evidence during litigation that can lead to an award of punitive damages based on a person’s reckless or willful and wanton action of driving while intoxicated.
Contact Whalen Injury Lawyers
Being injured in a drunk driving accident can exact a terrible toll not only on the victim but also their family members. In addition to medical bills, there are likely to be many other serious consequences such as lost wages, long-term mental pain and suffering, and permanent impairment or disfigurement. The Colorado personal injury lawyers at Whalen Hersh have a distinguished record of helping auto accident victims successfully pursue compensation for their injuries and related losses and seeking punitive damages when necessary. Being a law firm that exclusively represents seriously injured clients against insurance companies and corporations, Whalen Hersh has a proud legacy of obtaining both court judgments and settlements totaling many millions of dollars.
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a drunk driving accident, a personal injury lawyer at Whalen Hersh will be pleased to help you begin exploring your legal options during a complimentary consultation. You are welcome to either call us (720) 307-2666 or send us a confidential message using this contact form.