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What Is The Difference Between DUI AND DWAI?

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2021 | Firm News

By Peter B. Albani, Colorado Defense Attorney – Denver, Fairplay and Breckenridge,

I am often asked if I could explain the difference between a DUI – first offense and DWAI  – first offense in Colorado. 

Colorado’s DUI law is found at “C.R.S. 42-4-1307”. You can put this tag line into a search engine bar and pull up the statute quickly and easily. The law discusses the main charge of Driving Under the Influence of drugs, or alcohol or both, and the lesser charge of Driving While Ability Impaired. 

The DUI sentencing laws look at the penalties including the possible imposition of jail, probation, an alcohol evaluation, alcohol classes and therapy, possible fines, mandatory costs, attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victims Impact Panel, and other matters.  

DEFINITIONS:

DUI – Driving Under the Influence means the driver was substantially incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle due to the use or ingestion of alcohol, or drugs, or both.

DWAI – Driving While Ability Impaired means the driver was impaired to the slightest degree to safely operate a motor vehicle due to the use of ingestion of alcohol, or drugs or both.

DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE (DUI – FIRST) Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a traffic misdemeanor. DUI is the higher offense than DWAI and thus carries higher penalties.

  • A DUI first conviction requires a minimum of 5 days in jail for a first offense and up to 365 days in jail.  A DUI first offense is probation eligible.
  • The minimum 5 day jail sentence can be suspended if the offender agrees to submit to an alcohol evaluation and then agrees to attend and complete a minimum level II alcohol education course (24 hours of classes). In addition the offender must attend and complete any therapy sessions (which can be quite lengthy).
  • A DUI first offense has fines from about $600 to about $1000. The fines are not mandatory.
  • A DUI requires 48 to 96 hours of useful public service. For a first offense, a lot of judges will impose the mandatory minimum 48 hours.
  • Both a DUI and a DWAI require the payment of mandatory costs. See below. These costs are not the same thing as a fine.
  • An Offender will have to attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim impact panel (MADD panel).
  • A DUI carries 12 points against a driver’s license and will cause a DMV revocation and may cause and additional DMV point suspension.

DRIVING WHILE ABILITY IMPAIRED (DWAI – FIRST)  Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) is a traffic misdemeanor. DWAI  is a lesser charge than DUI and thus carries lesser penalties.

  •  A DWAI first offense requires a minimum of 2 days in jail for a first offense and up to 180 days in jail. A DUI first offense is probation eligible.
  • The minimum 2 day jail sentence can be suspended if the offender agrees to submit to an alcohol evaluation and then agrees to attend and complete a minimum level II alcohol education course (24 hours of classes). In addition the offender must attend and complete any therapy sessions (which can be quite lengthy).
  • A DUI first offense has fines from about $200 to $500. These fines are not mandatory.
  • A DWAI requires the offender to perform 24 to 48 hours of useful public service. For a first offense, a lot of judges impose the mandatory minimum 24 hours.
  • Both a DUI first and a DWAI first require the payment of significant costs. The costs are not the same thing as a fine. See below.
  • An Offender will have to attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim impact panel.
  • A DWAI carries 8 points against your driver’s license and may cause a point suspension. In certain instances a driver will not lose his/her license if the DUI charge is reduced to a DWAI plea.

MANDATORY COSTS If you get a DUI or DWAI in Colorado and you are found guilty or plead guilty, you are going to face a whole lot of costs. These mandatory costs are in addition to fines that the Court will imposes. Even if the Court goes easy on the fines, or waives the fines, the mandatory Court costs will put a significant dent in your wallet. If you would like to look at this sentencing statute yourself to see just what costs are involved, you should start at C.R.S. 42-4-1307(10). DUI or DWAI Offenders will face the following mandatory costs:

  • Drug-Alcohol Evaluation – about $250 or more
  • Uniform Public Service costs – up to $120
  • MADD Victim Impact Panel fee – about $50
  • Crime Victim Assistance Fund  (VAF) cost – usually about $125
  • Persistent Drunk Driving Fund (PDD)  – anywhere from $100 – $500
  • Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Fund – $20
  • Rural Area Substance Abuse Problems Fund – $1 to $10
  • Drunk Driving Data-Analysis Surcharge – $2
  • Law Enforcement Assistance Fund to the State – $75
  • Law Enforcement Assistance Fund to the County – $15.

RESTITUTION  In addition to payment of any fines or costs, an  may have to pay restitution to help any injured person or persons recover for their injuries, losses or for any property damage.