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DWAI is less serious than DUI but penalties are still harsh

Colorado law enforcement officers continue their efforts to keep drunk drivers off the road. There are two significant charges: DUI and DWAI. How do these charges differ and what kind of penalties accompany each?

Understanding the difference

The difference between DUI and DWAI is the blood alcohol concentration level in the body. A driver whose BAC is between 0.05% and 0.079% falls into the category of driving while ability impaired, or DWAI. If the driver is 21 years of age or older and charged with DWAI, he or she could face up to 180 days behind bars, even for a first offense, plus a fine of between $200 and $500 and 48 hours of community service.

A driver whose BAC is 0.08% or higher can expect a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, or DUI. If the charge is DUI, penalties increase. For a first offense, the driver faces up to a year of imprisonment, the fine is between $600 and $1,000, and the court could order a maximum of 96 hours of community service. In addition, the driver stands to lose his or her license for nine months and must attend an alcohol education course.

Checking facts

Whether the charge is DUI or DWAI, the defense strategy will begin with a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arrest. For example, was there reasonable suspicion for law enforcement to stop the driver? What observations did the officer record? Were there administrative errors? Were the results of testing accurate?

Looking ahead

Although DWAI is the lesser of the two drunk driving charges, it will still add eight points to the driver’s record while a DUI conviction will add 12 points. The opportunity to reverse a driver’s license suspension or revocation order will occur at a DMV hearing. As for the criminal proceeding, the investigation into questions concerning probable cause and proper procedures will help to establish the outcome of the case.

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