For many people, their first (and hopefully only) interaction with the criminal justice system comes as a result of a DUI, and the process can be overwhelming. Chances are that:
- You have never been arrested before.
- You have never spoken with a bail bondsman before.
- You have never been to criminal court before.
- The police reports and other documents you receive from the court seem to be written in a different language.
- You are unsure whether you need an attorney to represent you.
You are not alone in feeling this way. There are literally thousands of people in courtrooms across America going through this process right now and trying to figure out what to do. The best move you can make is to get legal advice from a trusted DUI defense attorney.
Colorado Springs first-time DUI lawyer Patterson Weaver provides experienced legal representation tailored to the circumstances of your case. Our attorneys will fight fiercely for the charges against you to be reduced or dropped altogether. We will also argue to minimize the consequences if a conviction is unavoidable.
Contact Patterson Weaver Law, LLC for a free consultation to learn how we can help.
Do I Need an Attorney for a First DUI Offense?
Absolutely. Do not make the mistake of listening to a friend or family member who tells you that all first-time DUIs are handled in the same way. They are not. No two DUI cases are identical when you factor in different drivers (of various ages and body types), different patrol officers (some inexperienced, some seasoned DUI specialists), different circumstances that led to the arrest (pulled over while driving vs. found sleeping in a parking lot), and different levels of blood alcohol content (often abbreviated as “BAC”). All of these individual factors will lead to a unique offer from the district attorney, and not all offers are created equal.
Having an experienced first-time DUI attorney is especially important if your case involved an accident that caused property damage, injury, or death. It is also crucial to have a skilled attorney on your side if there was a child in the car at the time of your arrest or if your BAC was exceedingly high. (In Colorado, an individual with a BAC of 0.15% or above will be classified as a “persistent drunk driver,” even for a first-time offender.) There are enhanced penalties built into the Colorado criminal code for these aggravating circumstances, including a mandatory minimum jail sentence.
What Can a DUI Attorney Do for Me?
An experienced DUI attorney from Patterson Weaver Law, LLC can identify relevant issues that can be used to defend your case, negotiate with the DA, and possibly get the charges dismissed. For example, we may be able to show that:
- The arresting officer did not have a valid reason for pulling you over in the first place.
- The police officer did not have probable cause to charge you with DUI as a result of the traffic stop.
- You were coerced into making incriminating statements to the officer without being advised of your Miranda rights.
- The roadside sobriety tests were administered incorrectly.
- The blood or breath test was administered incorrectly.
- There was an issue with the state laboratory that calls the test results into question.
- The blood or breath test was obtained outside of the prescribed time limit (2 hours).
- You were taking medication that caused an adverse reaction.
- You were drugged without your knowledge before getting behind the wheel.
Do not take a chance at entering a guilty plea for DUI when there are defenses available to you that could either minimize the charges you are facing or get them dismissed outright. There is too much at stake to take that kind of risk. Contact our law firm today to discuss how we can fight alcohol-related driving violations.
What to Expect After a First-Time DUI Arrest in Colorado
A DUI arrest is often an individual’s initial experience with the criminal justice system. If you have been arrested for DUI for the first time, knowing what happens next can help you mount a better defense.
When you are arrested by a police officer for DUI, you will likely be taken to the police station. However, you might be taken to the hospital if you were injured in an accident or if the police want to perform a blood test. If you are transported to the police station, you almost certainly will have to undergo a chemical test of your blood alcohol content, if you have not already. Although you may refuse a chemical test, doing so will result in the suspension of your license for 12 months, as well as certain additional penalties.
The police may interrogate you after reading your Miranda rights. Do not give any statements without a lawyer present.
Finally, you will go through the booking process at the police station. A formal record of your arrest will be created and the police will check to see if there are any outstanding warrants for your arrest. When you are released from the station, you will be given notice of your first court date.
Notice of Revocation
If the breath test confirms that you had a BAC over the legal limit, the police will seize your license and give you a notice of revocation. This notice informs you that you have 7 days to request a hearing with the DMV. If you fail to request a hearing within this time, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended. The notice of revocation can act as a temporary license until your DMV hearing.
It is crucial to have a skilled DUI lawyer represent you at the DMV hearing.
A DMV hearing resembles a simplified version of a trial. At the hearing, your lawyer can make an argument as to why your driver’s license should not be immediately suspended. Your attorney can challenge the charges, such as by showing that the police unlawfully stopped you or that you didn’t have a BAC over the legal limit. Your lawyer can also argue that you need to retain your driver’s license, such as for your job or to take care of family members.
If you are successful in your arguments at this hearing, you will keep your license. However, it can still be suspended if you are later convicted of DUI.
The first court hearing is known as an arraignment. At an arraignment, the court will advise you of the charges you are facing and the potential penalties if you are found guilty. The court may also advise you of certain rights you have, such as the right to legal counsel. You will also be required to enter a plea to each of your charges. You may plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty. If you plead guilty or no contest, the court will immediately sentence you. If you plead not guilty, your case will proceed to the pre-trial phase.
It is absolutely essential to have legal representation at your arraignment. You should never enter a plea or accept a deal from the DA without talking to a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer.
The pre-trial conference is an opportunity for you and your attorney to speak with the prosecution to either negotiate a plea deal or identify issues for trial. If you do not reach a deal at the pre-trial conference, your case will likely proceed to trial at the next court date.
Motions & Suppression Hearing
Before trial, your criminal defense attorney can also file motions to suppress the state’s evidence or to dismiss your charges. At a hearing on these motions, your lawyer can argue that evidence should be excluded as irrelevant, unreliable, inadmissible under the rules of evidence, or obtained in violation of your rights. Successfully excluding critical evidence increases your chances of having the charges against you dismissed or of beating them in court if the prosecution decides to continue to trial.
If your case is not resolved with a plea bargain and is not dismissed, it will eventually head to trial. There, both sides will present evidence and examine and cross-examine witnesses. If you have been charged with misdemeanor DUI, you will likely be tried by a judge at a bench trial, although depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to request a jury trial.
If you are convicted of DUI, the court will typically impose a sentence immediately after the trial. First-time DUI sentences usually include fines, probation, community service, driver’s license suspension, and alcohol education classes. However, depending on the circumstances of your offense, the court may also impose jail time.
What Does the Law Say About DUI in Colorado?
You can be charged with DUI under C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(f) if you are caught driving a car or other vehicle when you have consumed alcohol or one or more drugs (or a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs), and it affects you to a degree that you are substantially incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle. One is substantially incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle when they are unable, either physically or mentally, of using clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of the vehicle.
Alternatively, you can be charged with DUI per se. This means that if you have a blood alcohol content that is over 0.08 within two hours of driving, you can be found guilty of DUI per se. You will be asked to take a breath or blood test if you are suspected of drunk driving. Some people assume that a conviction is assured if they were tested and the test came back with a 0.08 reading or higher. However, there are ways an experienced first-time DUI attorney can challenge chemical tests. Sometimes appropriate procedures were not followed. In other cases, there may have been mechanical issues. In still other cases, an attorney can challenge the entire stop as a violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights and try to get evidence obtained in the stop suppressed.
What You Need to Know About DWAI Charges
A lesser charge of DUI is a charge for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). Even if your impairment did not get to the point of a DUI, you can still be guilty of DWAI. This means that you were driving a car when you had consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of these, and it affected you even to the slightest degree so that you were less able than you ordinarily would have been to use good judgment and exert appropriate care to safely drive.
If your ability to operate a car is normally 100, and you have a drink and your ability can now be rated at 99, you could be convicted of DWAI in Colorado. While there is no per se limit for DWAI over which you would be immediately considered drunk, generally the presumption is that if your blood alcohol content was 0.05 to 0.08, you were driving while your ability was impaired.
First DUI Penalties in Colorado
Generally speaking, assuming that there are no aggravating factors (such as high BAC or an accident involving injury or death), your DUI will likely be charged as a misdemeanor. As such, Colorado DUI penalties may require you to:
- Spend between 5 days to 1 year in jail
- Pay a fine up to $1,000 (not including court costs and fees)
- Have 12 points against your license
- Have your driver’s license revoked for up to 9 months
- Perform community service of up to 96 hours
- Complete alcohol education classes and therapy
If you are put on probation for a first-time DUI conviction, certain conditions may be imposed. A judge can require you to abstain from consuming alcohol or drugs and to maintain sobriety, in addition to other standard probation terms. Your abstinence may be monitored.
The criminal penalties for a first-time DWAI are slightly less than those for DUI, including:
- 2 to 180 days in jail
- A fine up to $500
- 8 points against your driver’s license
- Up to 48 hours of useful public service
- Alcohol education classes and therapy
If your blood alcohol content was 0.15 or above, you will be classified as a “persistent drunk driver,” even if this is your first offense. Higher BAC levels may require you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) for at least two years before your full driving privileges will be reinstated. An IID functions like a breathalyzer test for your car. You must provide a breath sample free of alcohol in order to start your vehicle and provide breath samples while the car is operating.
Additional side-effects of a DUI include increased insurance rates, potential job loss, and damage to personal relationships. Given the many dangers associated with a DUI arrest, you owe it to yourself to at least schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer who has extensive experience with these types of cases.
First-time DUI offenders should also be aware that, even though a good attorney can often help you avoid jail on a first DUI, a second offense DUI typically carries heavier penalties. This includes a mandatory minimum 10 days of jail time.
First-Time DUI FAQs
First Time DUI
Under what is known as Colorado’s Express Consent law, every driver is required to submit to a blood or breath test if a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you have operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you refuse to take a blood or breath test, that refusal can be used as evidence against you in your DUI trial. It can also result in a mandatory one-year license suspension, designation as a “persistent drunk driver,” alcohol education and therapy, installation of an ignition interlock device for at least 1 year after your license is reinstated, and the requirement that you obtain what is known as “SR-22” policy from your insurance company.
At minimum, your license will be suspended for 1 month for a first-offense DUI (or 3 months for a refusal), after which you can request a restricted driver’s license, sometimes referred to as a “hardship license.” After the minimum suspension period, if you have completed the alcohol education course and installed an ignition interlock system on your vehicle, you can drive legally again. Beware that if you are caught driving during that mandatory suspension period, you could be charged with driving under suspension/revocation, which could result in mandatory jail time.
Consult an Experienced Colorado Springs First-Time DUI Lawyer
Whether you are charged with a first-time DUI or DWAI in Colorado Springs, you owe it to yourself to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to review the facts of your case. The consequences of a conviction can seriously affect your future.
Call the Colorado Springs DUI attorneys at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC for a free consultation. Our seasoned criminal defense attorneys regularly represent DUI offenders in Pueblo, Monument, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Security-Widefield, Palmer Lake, Old Colorado City, Woodland Park, Divide, Cripple Creek, Fairplay, Salida, Buena Vista, Westcliffe, Silver Cliff, Canon City, and Castle Rock, as well as other areas of El Paso, Chaffee, Pueblo, Teller, Lincoln, and Park Counties.