driving under the influence of drugs in Colorado

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in CO – What You Need to Know

Driving may be a necessary activity for many, but it can also be a very dangerous one. As such, the state has put in place a number of laws that are designed to deter unsafe driving and reduce the risk of accidents. When a traffic law is violated, penalties can range from a warning or ticket with mild fine to jail time, depending on the offense.

One of the more serious offenses in Colorado is that of driving under the influence of drugs. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs in our state, here’s an overview of what you need to know:

Defining Two Drug-Related Driving Crimes in Colorado

The first thing that you should know is how “drug” is defined in Colorado and how offenses related to the use of drugs while operating a motor vehicle are defined.

Per Colorado law, a drug is defined as any prescription or over-the-counter medications, controlled substances, and inhaled glues, toxins, and vapors. With that in mind, Colorado has two laws pertaining to the use of drugs and driving:

  1. Driving while under the influence of drugs (or alcohol) (DUI). As found in Colorado Revised Statutes and explained in a Law Summary published by the State of Colorado Office of Legal Services, driving under the influence of drugs refers to operating a motor vehicle after or while taking a drug that affects a person’s ability to operate a vehicle to the degree that they are “substantially” impaired and their physical abilities, mental abilities, or both are affected to the degree that they cannot exercise “clear judgment.”
  1. Driving while impaired by drugs (or alcohol) (DWAI). Driving while impaired, or driving while ability impaired, is similar to a DUI except that rather than having to prove that the person was “substantially incapable” of safe driving, a conviction can be obtained if the prosecution can prove that the person was affected to any degree, even the slightest, therefore affecting their ability to drive as safely as they would have been able had they not consumed/used/taken the drug.

What Are the Penalties for Refusing to Take a Blood Test?

Normally, when a person is pulled over for drinking and driving, they will be asked whether they would prefer a blood or breath test. If drug use is suspected, though, the officer may request a blood test.

Per the state’s implied consent laws (referred to as “express consent” in CO), at the time that a person receives their driver’s license, they are consenting to any blood or breath testing that is requested in relation to a law enforcement officer having probable cause to believe that the person is impaired. While you can refuse the test, there are penalties for doing so.

Refusing to take a blood test, if requested to do so, can result in an immediate license suspension of one year. The prosecution can also use this against you when pursuing a conviction.

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in Colorado

If you are convicted of driving while under the influence or while impaired by drugs, there may be administrative penalties and criminal penalties as a result. Consider the following consequences of a first- and second-DUI/DWAI charge:

  • First DWAI charge – Misdemeanor offense resulting in between two and 180 days in jail, a fine of between $200 and $500, and mandatory public service between 24 and 48 hours. There is no automatic license suspension for one’s first DWAI charge.
  • First DUI charge – A first DUI charge is also a misdemeanor offense, but the penalties are more serious and include up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, up to 96 hours of public service, and a potential nine-month license suspension.
  • Second DWAI or DUI charge – A second offense is more serious, resulting in a potential license suspension of up to one year, up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,500, and up to 120 hours of community service. 

The more DWAI/DUI offenses a person commits, the more serious the penalties are.

Our Colorado DUI/DWAI Attorneys Can Help

If you have been charged with driving while under the influence of drugs or while ability impaired due to drugs, you may have questions about your rights, what happens if the drugs involved were legal, your defense options, and more. At the law offices of Anderson & Carnahan Attorneys at Law, our experienced Colorado DUI/DWAI attorneys can help. Please call us today at (719) 454-8059 or send us a message for a consultation if you’re facing charges. We have a history of success and work hard for our clients.

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