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DUI Driving Penalties in Colorado

Colorado assesses driving penalties against those convicted for DUI or DWAI (sometimes called “administrative penalties”). These penalties are not handled by the court system but by the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The court proceedings and the DMV proceedings are held separately.

The length and type of penalty assessed by the DMV depend on many factors such as previous record and BAC amount. Due to the number of factors, determining the penalty can be confusing.

There are two types of DMV penalties that can be associated with a DUI.  The first penalty is from Colorado’s Express Consent laws.  The second penalty is a result of any conviction in criminal court.  The only way to avoid a DMV penalty is to win both your DMV case and your criminal case. In many situations, a driver falls under both, and the penalties of the express consent violation will most likely control.

Express Consent Penalties

Colorado express consent laws require that if a driver is arrested for driving under the influence, they must complete a chemical test of their blood or breath. If the driver does not complete either of these tests, they will face consequences that will be held against their license. Under express consent, penalties will be assessed if the chemical test was at or above .08 or the driver refused to take the chemical test.

To determine if there has been a violation of the express consent laws, the DMV will hold an “express consent hearing.” In a breath or refusal case, the DMV hearing must be requested within 7 days of the arrest. In a blood test case, the DMV hearing must be requested within 7 days of receiving the blood test results.

The hearing occurs at the statewide DMV offices and not at the courthouse. During the hearing, drivers and/or their attorneys can introduce evidence, question the officer, and call witnesses.

Under Colorado’s express consent laws, the following penalties apply for a personal without a CDL, who provided a chemical sample of breath or blood for testing, the test was done within two hours of driving, and the person is over 21 years old:

Express Consent Violation License Suspension DMV Points
BAC test ≥ 0.8 9 months N/A
2nd BAC test ≥ 0.8 1 year N/A
3rd or more BAC test ≥ 0.8 2 years N/A
1st refusal to take chemical test 1 year N/A
2nd refusal to take chemical test 2 years N/A
3rd refusal to take chemical test 3 years N/A


In addition, to the above express consent penalties, if a driver falls into the category of a persistent drunk driver (PDD), additional penalties and requirements apply.

A driver is a PDD if any of the following apply:

  1. They have been convicted of – or had their license revoked for – two or more alcohol-related violations;
  2. They get caught driving while under restraint;
  3. They drive with a BAC of 0.15% or higher (even if it is their first offense); or
  4. They refuse to take a chemical test after being arrested.

The additional penalties for PDDs are as follows:

  1. They must have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed for at least two years;
  2. They must complete a Level II Alcohol Education and Therapy course; and
  3. They must maintain SR22 insurance for usually two-three years.

Colorado maintains a list of authorized IID providers at DMV Approved Interlock Vendors.

Criminal Court Conviction Penalties

If a driver is convicted (including a plea of guilty) in court for DUI or DWAI, the DMV will impose certain penalties. With each successive DUI/DWAI conviction, the penalties assessed against a driver’s license become more severe.

Criminal Court License Suspension DMV Points
1st DWAI conviction No automatic license suspension 8 points
1st DUI conviction 9 months 12 points
2nd DUI or DWAI conviction 1 year DWAI 8 points
DUI 12 points
3rd DUI or DWAI conviction 2 years DWAI 8 points
DUI 12 points


Early Reinstatement and Restricted Licenses

Some drivers under suspension can reinstate their privileges before their normal eligibility date. For early reinstatement, Colorado has recently made drastic changes to its laws making the eligibility and requirements a web of confusing analysis.

To assist with this, the State of Colorado has provided a comprehensive reinstatement analysis that can be found at Colorado DMV Reinstatement Questions.

Our attorneys at Burnham Law recognize that losing your driver’s license can profoundly impact your ability to make a living and meet your obligations. Defending against driver’s license loss at the DMV is one of the most challenging aspects of a DUI case, as the burden the government must overcome at the DMV is far less than what is required in criminal court. The attorneys at Burnham Law litigate inside the DMV and court with the priority of limiting the negative effect on your driver’s license.

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Associate Attorney - Domestic Relations, Criminal Defense, and Probate


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