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Land of the Free, Home of the Blazed

As we preface a DUI review of a place like Colorado, many of you might be wondering: Well, what about marijuana? Considering all its beneficial uses, it can’t really be considered subject to harsh oversight when it comes to getting behind the wheel of my car, can it? It’s a good thing you asked. Before we get into any of the ramifications surrounding drinking and driving, let’s get one thing straight: The question of your competence as a driver after having smoked pot isn’t up for debate in the state of Colorado. Just like alcohol, the authorities assume that ANY amount of detectable THC in your blood puts you at risk of driving impaired. In terms of legal grounds for prosecution, the exact level is five nanograms of active THC in your blood – which, for those of you who are getting worried at this point, does not exist for that long after consumption, unless you’re a chronic user.

Before we move on, let’s break things down into the clearest terms.

What do you need to know?

  1. Refusing a roadside THC blood test carries the same sorts of penalties associated with refusing a BAC test: You’ll be unquestionably considered “high-risk”, and will have your license revoked on the spot. You may also be required to have an interlock ignition device (or an IID) installed in your vehicle and be ordered to enroll in substance abuse classes – even if your innocence is ultimately proven.
  2. Being medically prescribed marijuana does not make you immune to punishment if you’re suspected of driving impaired.
  3. As the public consumption of pot is illegal, you’ll face a separate sort of charge if you’re discovered with an open container (or one whose seal has been broken) or if there is any evidence that pot has been consumed in the vehicle.
  4. Like with any other substance, driving while under the influence of marijuana will result in both criminal and administrative punishments.
  5. As one can reasonably assume, the combination of alcohol and marijuana (or any other drug for that matter) in your system will lead to substantially weightier punishments.

A High Price to Pay

According to a 2016 reevaluation of DUI law by the Denver-based news site Westword, it’s fair to rank Colorado among the top 20 toughest states on DUI-related offenses. Of course, we should all be thankful of the sorts of legal provisions set in place, as they serve to protect those who take traffic-related safety seriously. Drinking and driving just isn’t cool. If you’ve been found guilty of driving under the influence, you’ll have to answer to two separate entities of authority. Criminal penalties (such as fines and jail time) are handled by the courts, while administrative penalties (mainly the suspension or revocation of your license based on prior arrest history or accumulation of DMV points) are handled by the CO Department of Revenue.

So what exactly is going to land you in jail?

It’s always important to be aware of the BAC threshold at which you could be considered culpable – but also know that that isn’t always the be-all and end-all limit. In other words, you’re breaking the law in the state of Colorado if:

  • Your BAC is 08% and you are 21 years of age or older.
  • Your BAC is 02% and you are under the age of 21.
  • Your BAC is 04% and you hold a commercial driver’s license.
  • Your BAC between 05 and 0.07% and you are deemed unable to make sound judgement behind the wheel.

But wait! Conviction with a BAC under 0.08 shouldn’t be possible, right? Actually, no. There’s a thing in Colorado called a DWAI – a Driving While Ability is Impaired. This is a fancy way of saying you were driving and simultaneously impaired to the ever-so-slightest degree by either drugs or alcohol, or both, and is usually considered to be a misdemeanor offense. While it might seem like a trivial charge at face value, be warned: You will still be assumed to be the type of reckless individual who either thinks that he or she is above the law, or that drinking in moderation is the sort of casual activity which pairs well with operating machinery – and the law will treat you as such, that is, brutally. If you get pinned with this sort of charge and genuinely think there’s been a mistake, hire a lawyer. There are a number of possible defenses which you might find applicable. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at some of the following penalties, depending on how many times this has happened.

  • First offense:
    • 8 points applied to your DMV record.
    • A fine ranging from $200-500.
    • Anywhere from two days to six months in jail.
    • 24 to 48 hours of community service.
  • Second offense:
    • 8 points applied to your DMV record.
    • A fine ranging from $600-1,500.
    • 10 days to one full year in jail.
    • 48 to 120 hours of community service.
  • Third offense: No change from the penalties associated with your second offense.
  • Fourth and subsequent offenses: Note that this is when your crime becomes a felony.
    • A fine ranging from $2,000-500,000.
    • Two to six years in prison.
    • Three years mandatory parole.

Guilty, To Put It Bluntly

If you’ve been charged with being obviously, debilitatingly high behind the wheel, or perhaps just flat-out drunk beyond the shadow of a doubt, you’re probably freaking out. After all, that sort of a case just might seem unwinnable. However, unless you yourself are an experienced attorney, don’t start ruling anything out. From police misconduct to a failure to follow standard DUI operating procedures, there is often a plethora of angles from which the defense might argue. For a worst-case scenario-type outlook, refer to the following breakdown of punishments, and don’t forget: Everybody (usually) deserves a second chance.

  • First offense DUI:
    • A 9-month minimum license suspension. Limited license acquisition is possible after one month with the installation of an IID.
    • 12 points applied to your DMV record.
    • Possible substance abuse assessment and counseling, and possible installation of an IID. (The latter is mandatory if your BAC was above 0.17.)
    • Jail time for a minimum of 2 days and for no more than 180 days.
    • A fine ranging from $600-1,000.
    • Community service; anywhere from 24 to 96 hours.
    • If your BAC was above 0.15%, the earned title of “persistent drunk driver”, or PDD, and your sentence is treated as that of a repeat offender, even if it’s your first.
  • Second offense DUI: This where Colorado earns its reputation as a state that’s seriously harsh on drinking and driving. The following penalties may apply no matter how long ago or where your prior offense occurred. They mean business. (Granted, the judge might be more lenient on a case-by-case basis if it’s been more than five years, but anything can happen.)
    • License suspension for up to one full year.
    • Jail time for a minimum of 10 days and up to one full year.
    • Community service; anywhere from 48 to 120 hours.
    • Fines ranging from $600-1,500.
    • The installation and upkeep of an IID for two full years following license reinstatement.
    • Court-mandated substance abuse classes.
  • Third offense DUI: All of the same penalties pertaining to a second-offense DUI apply here as well, with the one exception being that your license may be revoked for two full years instead of just one.

All of the offenses detailed above are considered misdemeanors in the state of Colorado. To consider yourself fully fucked – AKA, having your crime treated as a felony – you must have committed four or more DUI or DWAI’s. As mentioned above within the DWAI section, you’re now looking at up to six years in a state prison, fines as high as $500,000, and three years of mandatory parole. Don’t drink and drive, folks!

Don’t Delay – Try BernieSez Today!

If at any point you find yourself in the throes of the legal system on account of a few mishandled alcoholic beverages, fear not. Learn your lesson, but learn the best ways to navigate legal matters as well. Having a reputable lawyer on your side can be very helpful in determining your best possible outcomes and in negotiating the sorts of punishments that may harm your way of life in the worst possible ways. Post your questions to BernieSez today, where experienced attorneys can view them and offer you consultations – because you don’t have to do it alone.

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