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Is DWAI a criminal charge in Colorado?

In Colorado, you can face charges even if you are 21 or older and your BAC is under the 0.08 percent threshold that normally signals a DUI charge. These "lesser" charges are DWAI charges, or driving while ability impaired charges. If you are facing such an offense, you may wonder if DWAIs are criminal charges or if they are more like traffic tickets that do not show up on a criminal history.

The answer is that DWAIs are indeed criminal charges. They are traffic misdemeanors and worth taking just as seriously as DUI charges.

Hefty penalties

While the consequences of a DWAI conviction or guilty plea are not quite as severe as those for a DUI, they are still significant. For example, a DWAI adds eight points to your driving record. That could be enough to push your points over the limit and result in the loss of your driver's license. Drivers in Colorado cannot have more than 12 points in a year, meaning that if your record has five points already, you will lose your license with a DWAI.

Then there are the fines. You might have to pay as much as $1,500 for a first offense and perform considerable hours community service. You may even face jail time. For second and subsequent offenses, the penalties get more serious.

If you are younger than 21 and get your first DWAI conviction, you get four points on your driving record, and your license will probably be suspended for three months to a year.

Criminal element

Penalties aside, the big question to begin this article was whether DWAI was a criminal offense. Since it is, having to disclose your conviction could play a role in which employment opportunities hiring managers consider you for. It could also affect your chances of getting into some college programs and qualifying for certain types of college financial aid such as grants and scholarships. A misdemeanor crime is a low-level crime but still certainly a crime.

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