What is the Difference between Underage Drinking and Driving and DUI in Colorado?

Colorado, like many other states, has various laws that prohibit people from driving after having consumed alcohol to the extent that their ability to operate a vehicle is impaired or affected. In many cases, these laws draw distinctions between offenses based on how intoxicated a driver was at the time of driving based upon their blood alcohol content, or BAC. For example, people in Colorado who are caught driving with a BAC of 0.08 or greater can be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), while those caught with a BAC of between 0.05 and 0.08 may be accused of the lesser offense of driving while ability impaired (DWAI). In addition, an individual may be classified as a persistent drunk driver if their BAC was at 0.15 or greater, subjecting them to significantly increased penalties.

Zero Tolerance for Younger Drivers

While some may argue that in practice these laws prohibit a driver from drinking any alcohol prior to driving, their plain text only seeks to prohibit driving while affected by the consumption of alcohol. As drinking and driving relates to drivers who are under 21 years of age however, the law does reflect a “zero tolerance” policy. The offense associated with drinking and driving for individuals who are under 21 is called an underage drinking and driving (UDD) offense. Under the law, drivers who are under 21 may not drive with a BAC of .02 or higher, which is functionally zero tolerance. The penalties associated with violating Colorado’s UDD law include the following:

Offense Jail Time Fines Public Service
1st None $15 to $300 Up to 24 hours
2nd or subsequent 10 to 90 days $150 to $300 Up to 24 hours


It is important for drivers who are under 21 to understand that the effects of a UDD conviction can last for years after the completion of any court-imposed sentence. The existence of an alcohol-related violation on your record can affect you in terms of your educational opportunities, your ability to secure employment, your chances of renting an apartment, and even your ability to obtain certain state-issued licenses. As a result, anyone who is facing a UDD case in Colorado should discuss their options with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Under 21 DUI

Drivers who are under 21 should not be under the mistaken impression that other DUI laws do not apply to them due to their relatively younger age. A driver who is under 21 and found to be driving with a BAC of .05 or greater is subject to the same criminal penalties to which any other driver in the state would be subject. Consequently, it is of the utmost importance for any driver facing a Colorado DUI case to retain legal counsel immediately.

Contact a Denver DUI defense attorney today to schedule a free consultation

The lawyers of the Tiftickjian Law Firm are dedicated to helping people in Colorado who are accused of drinking and driving bring their case to the best resolution possible. To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, call our office today at (303) DUI-5280.

Photo Credit: ChrisMRichards via Compfight cc