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DWAI in Colorado: How Long Does It Stay on Your Record?

In Colorado, a conviction for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) stays on your criminal record permanently. However, points associated with the DWAI will stay on your driving record for ten years. This means the conviction itself cannot be expunged or sealed, but its impact on your driving record diminishes after a decade.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Understanding DWAI in Colorado

According to Steven J. Pisani, in Colorado, DWAI stands for Driving While Ability Impaired, meaning you were caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) between 0.05% and 0.08% [1].

A first-time DWAI, classified as a traffic misdemeanor, carries penalties of 2 to 180 days in jail, fines ranging from $200 to $500, and 24 to 48 hours of community service, along with eight DMV points added to your license.

DWAI charges are not the same as a DUI per se charge. The DWAI charge alone won’t result in your license being suspended – Steven J. Pisani

According to Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1301 (1)(g), C.R.S., a DWAI is issued when driving while impaired to the “slightest degree,” indicating reduced physical or mental capacity to drive safely. Typically, a BAC over 0.05% but under the 0.08% legal limit results in a DWAI rather than a DUI per se charge.

What’s the Difference Between a DUI, DWI and DWAI?

According to Nave Law Firm, while many people use DWI and DUI interchangeably, there are key differences between these terms, especially in Colorado [2].

In Colorado, there are two primary “drunk driving” offenses: DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired). DWI is defined as driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, indicating legal intoxication – Nave Law Firm

DWAI refers to impairment by substances and can involve either drugs or alcohol. A DWAI-Alcohol charge applies to drivers with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.07%, while a DWAI-Drugs charge can be issued for impairment due to illegal or prescription drugs.

Penalties for a DWAI-Alcohol are generally less severe, but a DWAI-Drugs conviction carries similar consequences to a DWI, including potential jail time, probation, fines, and mandatory license revocation. Additionally, DWI offenders must install an ignition interlock device, a breathalyzer linked to the vehicle’s engine that prevents it from starting if alcohol is detected. This device must be used for at least one year following a DWI conviction.

Subsequent DWI convictions result in increased penalties and can escalate to felony charges.

Colorado DWAI Penalties

DWAI First Second Third Fourth
Crime Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Class 4 felony
Incarceration 2 to 180 days 10 days to 1 year 60 days to 1 year 2 to 6 years (plus 3 years of parole)
Fines $200 to $500 $600 to $1,500 $600 to $1,500 $2,000 to $500,000
Community service 24 to 48 hours 48 to 120 hours 48 to 120 hours n/a
Probation Up to 2 years 2 years 2 to 4 years (includes 90 days of alcohol monitoring) Depends (includes 90 days of alcohol monitoring)
Suspended sentence n/a 1 year 1 year Depends
DMV points 8 points 8 points 8 points 8 points
License revocation none 1 year 2 years 2 years

Source: [3].

How Does a Prosecutor Prove DWAI in Colorado?

Following an arrest for suspected impaired driving in Colorado, you are legally required to take a chemical breath or blood test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC).

DWAI charges hinge on actual impairment, so there is no specific BAC level that automatically results in a DWAI conviction. However, a BAC over 0.05% but below 0.08% serves as strong evidence of impairment.

Refusing to take a breath or blood test leads to an automatic license suspension, regardless of the outcome of your criminal case. Additionally, you must complete Level II DUI School, and prosecutors may use your refusal as evidence of DWAI in court.

How Long Does a DWAI Stay on Your Record in Colorado?

In Colorado, a DUI conviction remains on an individual’s permanent record indefinitely and is considered a lifelong offense. This means that all prior alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions will be taken into account for sentencing purposes, regardless of when or where they occurred.

For sentencing, Colorado courts treat out-of-state convictions the same as in-state ones. However, the Colorado DMV only considers offenses that occurred within Colorado or while the individual was a Colorado resident. The DMV reviews the lifetime record but excludes convictions from other states unless the individual was residing in Colorado at the time.

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