What’s the difference between a DUI, DUI-D and a DWAI?

There are two main drunk driving charges for DUI in Colorado, an they cover both alcohol and drugs: DUI and DUI per se. The first has a lesser included offense of DWAI, which means you aren’t charged with DWAI, but if a judge or jury finds you not guilty of DUI, then that fact-finder can decide if you are guilty of DWAI.

DUI, DWAI, and DUI per se are all legal shorthand for various alcohol and/or drugged driving offenses, as proscribed by C.R.S. section 42-4-1301.

“DUI” is an abbreviation for “driving under the influence.” To be guilty of DUI in Colorado, the driver must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher (per se) or be found to be “substantially incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely” (common-law DUI).  A first time DUI offender can face nine months of driver’s license revocation, a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail, as well as community service and mandatory substance abuse education and therapy classes. A second time offender faces a minimum one year of driver’s license revocation, a $1,500 fine, at least 10 days of mandatory jail time, and up to a year in jail plus a minimum mandatory two year probation sentence where another year of jail is suspended and can be imposed if you fail to comply with the terms and conditions of probation. Community service and Level II education and therapy classes also apply.

In addition, you may be classified as a “persistent drunk driver” and exposed to increased penalties if a blood or breath test shows a BAC level of 0.15 or greater, or if you refuse to take a breath or blood test when arrested for DUI.

What is a Colorado DUI-D?

“DUI-D” is an abbreviation for “driving under the influence of drugs.” It is the exact same charge as DUI and in fact Colorado DUI law does not distinguish between drugs or alcohol when charging someone with a Colorado DUI offense. Any driver charged with DUI in Colorado is being accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. You are considered to be under the influence of drugs if, because of the drugs, or because of the combination of drugs and alcohol, you are found to be “substantially incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely.” It makes no difference whether the drugs causing or contributing to this effect are illegal drugs, or lawfully obtained prescription drugs, or even over the counter medications. The penalties are exactly the same as for DUI. Note that there is no “DUI-D per se,” which means there is no separate charge for having a specific amount of a drug in your blood like there is for alcohol. For example, Colorado has a 5 nanograms inference THC limit, but that is not a per se law and the state must still prove you were substantially incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely as they cannot simply rely on the result of a drug like they can for alcohol.

What is a Colorado DWAI?

“DWAI” is an abbreviation for “driving while ability impaired.” It is less serious than a DUI or DUID and can be established with less proof. To be guilty of a DWAI, it must be shown that you drove a vehicle after you have consumed drugs and/or alcohol which affect your mental or physical abilities to drive safely to “the slightest degree.” In the situation where only drugs are involved, this is sometimes referred to as a DWAID (driving while ability impaired by drugs). A driver can be charged with DWAI even if his or her BAC is less than .08 percent. If your BAC is less than .08 but over .05, the law tells the jury that they may infer that your abilities were impaired. However, you are allowed to present evidence to rebut this inference. Even if your BAC is under .05, you can still be charged with DWAI if you show signs of impairment. A first time DWAI offender can face a $500 fine and up to 180 days in jail. A second time offender faces one year of driver’s license revocation, a $1,500 fine and up to a year in jail plus a minimum mandatory two year probation sentence where another year of jail is suspended and can be imposed if you fail to comply with the terms and conditions of probation. In either case, you can also be required to perform community service and complete Level II substance abuse classes.

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Regardless of what you were originally charged with, any conviction for DUI, DUI per se, DWAI, or any drugged driving offense is a permanent criminal conviction that remains on your driving and criminal history forever. If you have a prior offense on your record, the sentencing ranges are the same irrespective if you are convicted of DUI or DWAI and the penalties exponentially increase with each offense and conviction. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI, DWAI or DUI-D charge in Colorado you need to consult with an experiences and reputable Colorado DUI defense lawyer to discuss your options and so that you understand the seriousness of these charges. We offer consultations and honest assessments without a sales pitch. Contact us for a consultation today.