DUI vs DWI vs DWAI in Colorado: What's The Difference?

Suppose you've been pulled over for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and are now facing charges. If this situation has happened to you, it's essential to take the necessary measures to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome. 

DUI, DWI, and DWAI can all significantly affect your life. That’s why  it's crucial to find a local DUI lawyer who can help you through every step of the process. Criminal Defense Attorney Jill Jackson is proud to assist Colorado residents who need DUI defense and legal assistance in obtaining the best possible outcome to get their lives back on track. 

Our Denver DUI attorneys help clients navigate the confusing legal system, drawing on years of experience and positive results to provide a committed level of service to each person we assist. Jill M. Jackson is dedicated to her clients and their goals, providing customized plans that have been accredited and recognized.  

Call us today if you need a trained Denver criminal defense team to assist you in obtaining a favorable outcome.

Definitions: DUI vs DWI vs DWAI

Due to the similarities of the charges, as well as the similarity of the acronyms, these driving offenses are easily confused. 

Colorado drivers could face charges in one of the following scenarios: one involving the DMV and your driving status, and the other involving DUI fines in the courtroom. 

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between DUI, DWI, and DWAI:

DWAI Stands for Driving While Ability Impaired

DWAI is the least serious of all three offenses. These charges are typically reserved for those who are slightly affected by drugs or the influence of alcohol that falls under the legal limit. If your blood alcohol content, or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limit of .05 percent in a breathalyzer test, you will likely face a DWI arrest. 

DWI Stands for Driving While Intoxicated

Also termed Driving While Impaired, a DWI offense I is most commonly reserved for impaired driving under the influence of alcohol. Blood alcohol content .08% or above warrants a DWI charge in the state of Colorado. 

DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence

DUI charges, often confused with DWI, to encompass a broad range of circumstances of driver impairment. This means not only alcohol but other drugs and schedule I controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, even some prescription drugs. 

At roadside stops, police officers are highly qualified to search for any symptoms of impairment. The senses of sight, sound, and smell will all play a significant role in deciding intoxication. 

Keep in mind that any observable or measurable impairments to your physical or mental faculties will be recorded.

DUI Limits for Minors in Colorado

Drunk driving laws are different depending on the age group involved. 

Since Colorado's BAC cap for alcohol consumption among minors decreases from .08 percent to .02 percent, juveniles in this age group are often arrested for DWAI or DUI. This zero-tolerance policy discourages underage drinking and driving since the former can be physically and legally dangerous to the individual, in any context, whether behind the wheel or not. 

Keep in mind that all drivers must voluntarily agree to be checked by police officers if they get arrested. This is one of the conditions of having a Colorado driver's license. You always  have the choice of refusing a breath test and being brought in for a blood test if you are pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence. However, keep in mind that your license will be automatically suspended pending the outcome of your case if you refuse.

DUI, DWAI, & DWI Penalties

DUIs involve your blood alcohol levels, while DWAIs deal with your ability to drive a motor vehicle. Both can be prosecuted in a court of law, and each has its own collection of charges.

DWAI Penalties

Just because your BAC measured below the DUI minimum, you may still be face penalties:

  • First offense – Up to $500 in fines and between 2 and 180 days served in jail. You might also face up to eight points against your license (something your car insurance company will be made aware of). Depending on the details of your case, you may be able to continue driving with a restrictive ignition interlock device. 

  • Second offense – Up to $1000 in fines and between 45-365 days in jail. Second-time offenders may lose their license and driving privileges up to a year on top of jail time served.

DUI and DWI Penalties

DUIs are determined after you cross the 0.08 mark during a field sobriety test, regardless of your driving habits. 

First-time offenders charged with drunk driving under the influence of alcohol are often subjected to a 12-point penalty, which may result in a license suspension. You could spend anywhere from five days to a year in prison, depending on the circumstances of your case. The DMV keeps fines and judgments for five years, so Colorado's DUI punishments are based on five-year terms. 

A second DUI charge within five years will result in a minimum of 90 days in prison and a fine of $1,000. You may also expect your license to be suspended for at least a year. When criminals are charged more often, the severity of the fines increases. If you are deemed a repeat traffic offender, you will face a more serious offense, likely jail time.

Contact a DUI Defense Attorney in Denver, Colorado Today

If you are facing a DWI charge or misdemeanor with possible license revocation (or worse) and need an experienced law firm for representation and support, the Law Firm of Jill M. Jackson is here to serve. 

Our DUI attorneys help drivers in Denver and surrounding areas achieve the best outcomes, delivering exceptional care to try and restore lives in the process. Contact us today for assistance and schedule a free consultation. 

The Law Office of Jill M. Jackson is here to help you if you are facing a DWI conviction and need legal advice and assistance. Our Denver DUI lawyers assist drivers in achieving the best possible results in their cases, providing comprehensive care in the process to help people reclaim their lives. Please contact us right away if you need assistance.


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