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The state of Colorado takes drunk driving very seriously. First-time offenders face severe penalties, and those penalties are even greater if an accident is involved or you have a high blood alcohol content (BAC).

DUI cases are on the rise in Colorado, and the penalties can be harsh.

“In 2019 we filed 169 felony DUI cases alone, that’s up from 113 the year before. So it’s on the increase as far as the number of cases we’re finding that are felony DUI drivers, it is a problem, it seems to be a growing problem,” says Senior Deputy DA Michael Allen.

But will you get jail time for a DUI in Colorado? That depends on your BAC level and a number of other factors.

One of the main concerns with a DUI charge is whether you will have to serve time in jail. The answer will depend on a number of factors. If this is your first DUI, you may not have to serve jail time. It’s important to understand the criminal penalties of DUIs in Colorado to know what you’re up against.

First-Time Offenders

A first conviction for a DUI, DUI per se, and DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) is considered a misdemeanor. Penalties include:

  • Minimum 5 days and up to one year in jail
  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to 96 hours of community service

The minimum 5 days in jail may be waived if you complete a drug and alcohol treatment program and other requirements ordered by the court.

However, if your BAC is 0.15% or higher, you will be treated as a persistent drunk driver and will be sentenced as a repeat offender. In this case, you would have to serve a minimum of 10 days in jail.

Second Offense

If you are convicted of a DUI for a second time, it is still considered a misdemeanor and penalties include:

  • Minimum 10 days and up to 1 year in jail
  • Fines of up to $1,500
  • Up to 120 hours of community service
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for two years

Third Offense

A third DUI conviction is still considered a misdemeanor, but it comes with even harsher penalties:

  • 60 days to 12 months in jail
  • Fines of up to $1,500
  • Up to 120 hours of community service
  • Installation of an IID for two years

Fourth Offense

A fourth DUI conviction is considered a Class 4 Felony and comes with the following penalties:

  • 2-6 years in state prison w/3-year parole, and/or
  • Fines of $2,000-$500,000

Administrative Penalties

Along with fines and possible jail time, DUI offenses also come with administrative penalties, including license suspension and DMV points.

The harshness of these penalties will depend on whether this is your first offense and other factors.

  • First offense with BAC of .080 or higher: 9-month license suspension
  • 2nd BAC test of .080 or higher: 12-month license suspension
  • 3rd BAC test of .080 or higher: 24-month license suspension

Additional administrative penalties can include:

  • 12 points on your driving record
  • Court costs
  • Court-ordered drug and alcohol education classes


Colorado law has strict penalties for DUIs, but the harshness of the penalties will largely depend on your BAC and whether this is your first offense.

First-time offenders may not have to spend time in jail if certain conditions can be met, including the completion of a drug and alcohol program. However, if your BAC exceeds 0.15%, you will be required to serve at least 10 days in jail.

Drug and alcohol education programs may also be required to get your license reinstated.

Education program requirements may include:

  • First-time offender: Level I program; 12+ hours of education; $300 in costs
  • High alcohol DUI or refusal to take a chemical test: Level II program; 24+ hours of education; 52 hours of treatment; $600-$1,000 in costs

Completion of an alcohol education program can help you avoid jail time if it’s your first DUI conviction. However, you will need the help of a skilled DUI attorney to help you navigate the legal system and achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Without the help of an attorney, you risk jail time, hefty fines, and other penalties that can have a significant impact on your life.

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If you are facing DUI charges in Colorado, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney who has a track record of success. Colorado law has strict penalties for DUI offenses, and these penalties can have long-lasting effects on your life. If this is your first offense, a DUI lawyer may help you avoid jail time and negotiate a more favorable outcome for your case.

Categories: DUI