First, let me get this fact out of the way: I do not represent people who are charged with DUI or DWI in Colorado (though I can refer you to quality attorneys who do). Instead, I represent the victims of DUI accidents.
If you were the victim of a DUI accident in Colorado (or a DWI accident in Colorado), you have my sympathy. I certainly hope that your physical injuries are minimal. Hopefully, you’re only facing property damage (such as your car). However, I’m certain that you are now mired in a very confusing system in which your rights as a victim could easily be lost.
In this article, I’m going to…
- Describe the difference between DUI and DWI in Colorado
- Explain the penalties for DUI and DWI in Colorado
- Outline the complex DUI/DWI legal process in Colorado
- Share a true story about a DUI victim whom we helped
I truly hope you (or your loved one) aren’t facing life-threatening injuries as a result of the DUI driver’s recklessness. Perhaps the following information can help you navigate the tricky Colorado legal system after your accident.
The Difference Between DUI and DWI in Colorado
Colorado has two levels of alcohol-related driving offenses. The first is known as DUI and the second is DWI or DWAI. The difference between the two distinctions is purely about the driver’s blood acohol content (BAC). In a nutshell, DUI is worse than DWAI:
- Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI): The blood alcohol limit for drivers under 21 years old is .02% and the limit for drivers over 21 is .08%
- Driving While Ability is Impaired (DWAI): The blood alcohol limit is .05%
Penalties for DUI in Colorado
Until very recently – August 5, 2015 to be exact – Colorado was one of only a handful of states where repeat DUI offenders received only a misdemeanor charge with maximum punishment of one year in jail. Now in Colorado, the fourth drunk driving charge is treated as a felony and is punishable by up to six years in prison. And that’s four charges in a lifetime. So, if a person is charged with a DUI in his 20s and doesn’t get his fourth DUI until he’s 60, he is still facing felony charges.
Here are the other penalties that DUI drivers face in Colorado:
- First DWAI Offense:8 points toward license suspension; $200 to $500 fine; up to 180 days in jail; up to 48 hours community service.
- First DUI Offense:Administrative license revocation for 9 months; $600 to $1,000 fine; up to 1 year in jail; up to 96 hours community service; alcohol education.
There are also many “surcharges” that DUI drivers have to pay, such as $78 to the Victim Assistance Fund, $33 to the Victim Compensation Fund, $200 for an Alcohol Treatment Evaluation, $90 to the Law Enforcement Assistance Fund, $20 to the Brain Injury Fund, and more. Basically, it is very, very expensive to get a DUI or DWAI in Colorado.
But, of course, I think the risk of driving under the influence has nothing to do with money; you could hurt or kill yourself or others. Absolutely no “good time” is worth that.
This driver was so drunk that she tried to flee the scene by backing up and hitting our client three more times!
I Was Hit By a Drunk Driver… Who Will Help Me?
If you are the victim of a drunk driver in Colorado, you likely have a long road ahead of you to receive the assistance you need to heal or pay for your damaged property.
After a DUI accident in Colorado, there are actually two different legal proceedings:
- Prosecuting the drunk driver for his or her criminal behavior, and
- Securing money from the insurance companies for the victim of the drunk driving accident.
Here’s another way to look at it: It is the District Attorney’s job to prosecute the drunk driver in a criminal case. The DA has absolutely nothing to do with helping the victim get paid by the insurance companies. For this reason, most DUI victims need to get their own attorney because DUI laws are so confusing and insurance companies are so evasive. For an example of just how poorly insurance companies treat DUI victims, read on…
True Story About a DUI in Colorado
We recently represented a man who was stopped in his car on 17th Avenue one night and was hit from behind by a drunk driver. But the story doesn’t end there. This driver was so drunk that she tried to flee the scene by backing up and hitting our client three more times! Then she hit a parked car and was finally stopped when she hit a road sign.
“If it covers his bills, why isn’t that enough?”
Now, you might think this is a cut-and-dry case, but DUI cases are rarely so.
Our client was hurt, but the drunk driver’s insurance company offered barely enough of a settlement to cover his medical bills.
You may ask, “If it covers his bills, why isn’t that enough?” And I will tell you that there is more at stake in a DUI case. I don’t get on my high horse very often, but I do when it comes to DUI cases. It’s about justice.
In the state of Colorado, if you are hit by a drunk driver (or anyone who was driving with “reckless disregard for the safety of others”), you can claim triple the normal damages. And you should. Driving under the influence is a criminal offense, deserving of punishment.
So, in the case of our client, we sued the DUI driver’s insurance company and they turned around and gave our client the max that he could receive. I would argue that, because of the nature of the accident and the victim’s rights under the law, they should have made that offer first, not after being threatened with litigation.
You won’t hear me say this often, but it’s really about justice. Drunk driving is a criminal offense. If you are ever the victim in a drunk driving accident, don’t allow yourself to be victimized again by the other driver’s insurance company.
If you have been the victim of a DUI accident in Colorado and you are confused about your rights, or you think the insurance companies aren’t playing fair, please give me a call. We can discuss your case (for free, of course) and hopefully set your mind at ease.