(State of Colorado)


5. Driving under the influence


5.1. Alcohol and driving

Drinking and driving is one of the greatest problems causing highway crashes. Every year, tens of thousands of people are killed in alcohol related traffic crashes. Drinking drivers are more likely than other drivers to take excessive risks such as speeding or turning abruptly. The drinking driver is also more likely to have slowed reaction times and may not be able to react quickly enough to avoid a collision. It is also unlawful for someone to drink from or possess an open alcohol beverage container while in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that is on a public road.

Alcohol is a depressant drug that affects the central nervous system which affects the brain. It slows reflexes and reaction times while reducing the ability to make split second decisions necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle. As the amount of alcohol in your body increases, your judgment worsens and your skills decrease.

The amount of alcohol absorbed in your blood stream is what causes you to feel the effects of drinking. This is called Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). BAC is determined by a chemical test, usually of blood or breath. The driver with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.07% is presumed to be Driving While his Ability to drive is Impaired. If a driver BAC is 0.08% or greater, he is presumed to be Driving Under the Influence. (The BAC standards and penalties for drivers of commercial vehicles are more strict. See the Commercial Drivers Manual).

Alcohol concentration in the body may be different for some people than others, even if they have consumed identical amounts of liquor over the same time period.

Your BAC depends on several factors including:

- body weight.

- the period of time in which the alcohol was consumed.

- the amount of time since you had your last drink.

It does not make any difference whether you drink beer, wine or liquor. Standard servings of each have the same amount of alcohol. Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, a standard drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 72-proof distilled spirits, all of which contain the same amount of alcohol; about .54 ounces (NHTSA 2002).

Food can slow down the absorption of alcohol. Drinking on a full stomach prevents large amounts of alcohol from going to your brain immediately. Once alcohol is in the blood stream, the body gets rid of it through normal bodily processes. In spite of popular opinion, coffee, cold showers, and other so-called "cures" will not make a person sober. Only the passage of time will make a person sober.

On average, after a person reaches a peak BAC, it will drop by 0.015% per hour. For example, if the person reaches a maximum BAC of 0.15%, it will take about ten hours for them to eliminate all of the alcohol.


5.2. Drugs and driving

Driving while under the influence of drugs is illegal and subject to the same penalties as drinking and driving.

Besides alcohol, there are many drugs that can affect your ability to safely operate a vehicle. This is true for many prescription drugs such as tranquilizers as well as overthe-counter medications for allergies and colds. If you are taking medication be sure to check the label for warnings about its effects prior to driving. If you are not sure it is safe to take the drug and drive, ask your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects.

Never drink alcohol while you are taking other drugs. Mixing alcohol and drugs often multiplies the effects of the alcohol and any other drugs. For example, one drink, when you are also taking an allergy or cold medication, could have the same effect as several drinks.

Illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, LSD and heroin also affect your reflexes, judgment, and alertness along with their many other dangerous side effects. These drugs can give a person a false sense of alertness and self confidence or make a person drowsy and unable to react to simple situations.


5.3. Express consent law

The Express Consent Law means that when you operate a motor vehicle within the state, you have already agreed to take a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine to determine the alcohol and/or drug content of your blood. The law is designed specifically to quickly remove the drinking or drugged driver from the roads.

If a law enforcement officer suspects that you are driving under the influence or while your ability is impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, he can require that you take a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine.

If you refuse to take the test or don't cooperate with the testing procedure, your license will be revoked for a period of one year. If other suspensions or revocations come about from this same incident, they will be added onto the end of the revocation (consecutively).

Because driving "under the influence" is so dangerous, the penalties for alcohol or drug related violations are very tough, and DUI enforcement efforts by the police are a top priority that can include jail, fines, and suspension of your driving privileges. Colorado law does not allow you to "plea bargain" your way out of an alcohol or drug related driving offense.

The only sure way to avoid the consequences is not to use alcohol or drugs at all when you will be driving.


5.4. Under age 21

Any driver under the age of 21, convicted of D.U.I. or D.W.A.I., is subject to a mandatory revocation of their driving privilege for one year.

5.4a ZERO TOLERANCE: Drivers under the age of 21 with a BAC of .02 but less than .08 are subject to a mandatory revocation of their driving privilege.

5.4b BUY AND POSSESS: Any person under the age of 21 who buys or possesses liquor (including beer) is subject to mandatory revocation of their driving privilege even if driving is not a factor.

5.4c SUPPLYING ALCOHOL TO PERSONS UNDER 21: The department must suspend, for 6 months, the driving privilege of anyone convicted of providing any alcoholic beverage to minors under 21. This includes providing identification for a minor under 21 to use to purchase alcohol.


Possible Penalties for Drinking and Driving and/or Drugs and Driving



Presumed by

Blood Alcohol

Content of

Points Toward




Public Service

1st Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI)



$100 - $500

2 days - 180 days

24 hours - 48 hours

2nd Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI)


Revocation 1 year

$300 - $1000

45 days -1 year

48 hours - 96 hours

1st Driving Under the Influence (DUI)



$300 - $1000

5 days - 1 year

48 hours - 96 hours

2nd Driving Under the Influence (DUI)


Revocation 1 year

$500 - $1500

90 days -1 year

60 hours - 120 hours

DWAI with previous DUI


Revocation 1 year

$400 - $1200

60 days - 1 year

52 hours - 104 hours

DUI with previous DWAI


Revocation 1 year

$450 - $1500

70 days - 1 year

56 hours - 112 hours

All second offenses within five (5) years - The minimum mandatory jail sentence is adjustable when combined with an agreement for an alcohol treatment program.


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