Colorado's Habitual Traffic Offender Laws

A habitual traffic offender is someone who continues to break traffic laws, even after they have been warned, ticketed, or even arrested for issues such as reckless driving, vehicular assault, or driving under the influence. But they generally must commit significant crimes behind the wheel, or a high number of smaller ones. In many cases, they many have even lost their driver's license for a period of time. But they return to the road eventually, and when they do that, they often return to their crimes, as well.

There are laws to punish people who break traffic rules, of course, but Colorado also has laws specific to habitual offenders. Those laws are designed to stop people from continuing to break traffic rules, and to help keep dangerous people off the road. When a habitual traffic offender keeps driving, they put the safety of other people on the road at risk. That's something the state wants to avoid, and is a way to reduce overall traffic injuries and deaths by reducing the number of dangerous drivers on the state's roads.

Colorado Statutes Specifically Define Habitual Traffic Offenders (HTO)

In Section 42-2-206 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, there's a lot of information on habitual traffic offenders. This statute gives details of what makes someone a habitual offender, what kinds of penalties there are for doing so, and what types of requirements the state has for trying to keep these problematic drivers off the road. It is not always easy to stop someone from driving if they are determined to do so, but keeping strong penalties is one of the ways the state can reduce the problem and the risk it causes.

Being designated as someone who habitually offends means being convicted of at least three major traffic offenses, all within a period of seven years. Those offenses are typically serious, and result or could result in significant bodily injury or death to the offender or another person. Some minor traffic offenses that do not count toward this total. However, the major offenses that contribute to habitual traffic offender status include DUI, reckless driving, vehicular assault, and several others, such as:

  • DWAI
  • DUI per se
  • Vehicular Manslaughter
  • Vehicular Homicide
  • Driving Under License Revocation
  • Driving Under License Suspension
  • Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft
  • Providing False Info to the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Hit and Run With Injury or Death
  • Criminally Negligent Homicide Resulting From Motor Vehicle Operation

This list isn't comprehensive; there are also other ways a person can be designated as a habitual traffic offender. Even some smaller moving violations can add up. Anyone getting 10 or more moving violation convictions within a five-year period, a designation which counts as four or more points by the DMV, would also be considered a habitual offender. The same designation would be given to someone who amassed 18 convictions within five years, with offenses that were three or more points each.

Anyone who's designated as a habitual offender in Colorado may face serious penalties, and need the services of a trusted attorney. By working with a legal professional, they may be able to reduce the ramifications of this label. If you or a loved one has been charged with traffic and driving offenses that are leading to this status, or if you have already reached this status and are looking for legal advice, working with an attorney is the right choice to help you navigate the issues you are facing.

With criminal offenses such as habitual traffic issues, working to have some charges dropped or penalties reduced may make it easier for you to move forward and potentially help you keep your driver's license, as well. Losing your license could lead to the loss of a job, and may also create other negative issues in your life that you want to avoid. Naturally, it's best not to be labeled as a habitual traffic offender, but if you find yourself in that situation an attorney may be able to help reduce the impact on your life.

Serious Penalties Exist for Habitual Offenders in Colorado

For habitual traffic offenders in the state of Colorado, there are serious penalties. If convicted of driving when they're already a habitual offender, there are expensive fines, and jail time is mandatory. For people who have already have their driver's license revoked, that revocation is automatically extended. The length of any jail time will depend on the specific offense committed and other factors, such as the number of convictions the person has already had, what they were for, how long ago they were, and any extenuating circumstances.

Thirty days is the minimum sentence, with 18 months being the maximum. The fines can go up to a maximum of $5,000. However, a judge has the option to suspend the jail time and the fine, in lieu of community service hours. The number of hours will range between 40 and 300, and all of those hours must be useful public service, or they won't be counted toward the total. This is particularly important to be aware of, since there are many types of public service options. Finding ones that count is vital.

For anyone who may be a habitual offender, having other traffic offenses stemming from the same incident may mean that the judge won't suspend the jail time or the fine to allow for community service. Reckless driving or a DUI as part of the same incident, for example, means that the prosecutor will likely bring charges of aggravated driving as a habitual offender. That is listed as a Class I Misdemeanor. The mandatory jail time of 60 days to 18 months that comes with that conviction can't be suspended by a judge.

Habitual Offenders Could Lose Their Vehicles

In Denver, Colorado, the City Council has amended the law as of 2005, to have the vehicles of habitual traffic offenders declared a public nuisance. As such, those vehicles will be impounded and seized through the filing of civil cases against their drivers. The Denver City Attorney takes action in these cases, in order to require that the habitual traffic offender forfeit their vehicle to the city. So not only does this designation come with jail time and fines, but also with the loss of a vehicle, which can be expensive.

Other cities throughout Colorado don't have these same public nuisance laws on the books, so not everyone who is listed as a habitual traffic offender in the state will be at risk of losing their vehicle. But in the Denver area, it's a real possibility and has been for some time. Rather than take the risk, it's very important not to be labeled as a habitual offender. Then you don't have to worry about losing your vehicle, being fined, or ending up in jail due to driving-related convictions and the harm they cause.

While not a requirement, those who are found to be habitual traffic offenders often lose their vehicles in other parts of the state, as well. That happens because they often have jail time, fines, and other issues to take care of, which can lead them to selling their vehicle. They may also not be able to drive anymore, due to license revocation or suspension. Avoiding those types of problems may be easier when working with a competent attorney who can help with traffic offender concerns.

Working With the Right Criminal Defense Attorney Matters

To help protect your driver’s license and make sure you don't end up registered as a Colorado habitual traffic offender, it's important to work with an attorney who can present your case to the judge in the best possible way for your future. Ideally, you want to make sure you're working with someone whose practice areas overlap with your needs. This may help you reduce or avoid a jail sentence, and make it easier for you to get the support and guidance you need, rather than ending up behind bars and paying fines.

For anyone who's been convicted of multiple traffic offenses in Colorado, the time to reach out to a criminal defense attorney is now. Don't take the risk of being labeled a habitual traffic offender. That can come with the loss of your vehicle, your financial stability, and your freedom. But you don't have to let that happen. An attorney can help you work toward a reduction in convictions and a lowering of penalties and charges, so you aren't putting yourself at as much risk as you might otherwise experience.

When you choose a criminal defense attorney for your Colorado habitual traffic offender concerns, make sure you're selecting one you can trust and rely on. When you select the right attorney, you don't have to worry about handling legal issues alone. You'll have an ally in your corner, and a competent legal professional on your side. With that in mind, make sure the attorney you choose is one who has the education and experience to help you with the offender issues in your life.

Not all attorneys handle the same kinds of cases, and a traffic ticket is much different from a habitual traffic offender designation. Rather than choosing an attorney based on who may have helped you handle a ticket in the past, make sure you're selecting an attorney who has the skills to help you through more complex court battles. Many people who are facing habitual offender status, or who are already there and have committed further offenses, need the services of an attorney that knows how to work with the court system to address the issues directly and provide the best possible outcome.

The hiring of a criminal defense attorney should always be taken very seriously. It's not something to take lightly, because it can make the difference whether you spend time in jail, how long your sentence is, and how much you'll be asked to pay in fines. In Denver, it could also affect whether you keep your vehicle or have to forfeit it to the city. There are many variables in these types of cases, and you don't want to have something overlooked. Your choice of attorney will affect that.

Make sure you focus on looking for an attorney you can trust, who has the knowledge you're looking for and can rely on. Not only can that help provide you with a better future and the potential for reduced charges, but it can also add to your peace of mind. Dealing with the potential for criminal charges can be stressful, and with a habitual offender designation due to traffic violations, it can be harder to secure employment and complete daily life tasks. Fortunately, a good attorney can help you reduce those charges as much as possible, so you can move forward and get back to your life with the minimum of impact.


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