Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) in Colorado

The State of Colorado takes drinking and driving seriously. Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the term DUI, which is an abbreviation for the offense of driving under the influence, but less people may be aware that there is another, more restrictive law in Colorado regarding drinking and driving.  This is the less serious offense of DWAI, or driving while ability impaired.

Colorado Revised Statute § 42-4-1301 governs both these offenses. Under this statute, a person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle under the influence of alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and drugs, commits driving under the influence. Similarly, a person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle while impaired by alcohol and/or by one or more drugs, commits the lesser offense of driving while ability impaired.

First, pursuant to § 42-4-1301(1)(g), “Driving while ability impaired” is defined as driving a motor vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol and/or drugs, that affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been, either mentally or physically, or both, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.

Second, also pursuant to the statute, “Driving under the influence” is defined as driving a vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol and/or drugs, that affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.

It is important to pay attention to the “affects the person to the slightest degree” part of the above definition from the DWAI statute. The language used makes it very difficult to defend against a charge of driving while ability impaired. Police will use breathalyzer tests, performance on roadside maneuvers (also called field sobriety tests), and other indicators as evidence that a person is impaired to at least the slightest degree.

Also, under the statute, a person who drives a vehicle when the person’s BAC (blood alcohol content) is 0.08 or more at the time of driving commits DUI “per se”. If at the time of the commission of the alleged offense a person’s BAC was in excess of 0.05 but less than 0.08, there is an inference that the defendant’s ability to operate a vehicle was impaired by the consumption of alcohol. If at such time the defendant’s BAC was 0.05 or less it shall be presumed that the defendant was not under the influence of alcohol and his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle was not impaired.

If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI or DWAI, feel free to call us. We are happy to assist you in any way that we can.

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