When you’ve been caught drinking and driving, you’ll want to know how to handle a DUI. First, it’s important to address that you may have a problem with alcohol if you’re driving under the influence in the first place. Regardless of the outcome of your DUI, you may want to look into getting treatment to avoid this problem in the future. In Colorado, there are two different levels of drinking and driving related offenses. They are measured by the blood alcohol concentration in the body. A DUI is Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A DWAI is driving while ability is impaired.

A DUI is a greater offence where your licence is revoked for 9 months. You’ll also be fined between $600 to $1,000. There is a possibility of jail time for up to 1 year and you’ll likely have to do up to 96 hours of community service. You’ll also have to undergo alcohol education. These types of charges can cause financial problems, loss of job, cause problems in your relationship. Not to mention driving while intoxicated and getting caught is a humiliating experience. Here are some tips to help you in handling a DUI in Colorado.

1. Understand the DUI Definition

It’s important for you to understand what you’re dealing with when it comes to a DUI charge.

There are a few acronyms to describe being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving. They include DUI, DWI, OMVI, and OVI. The more common term is DUI. A DWI is also common and stands for driving while intoxicated. There is a difference between a DUI vs DWI. While a DUI is drinking under the influence, a DWI is driving while intoxicated. They are two separate parts which are administrative and criminal. A DWI falls under the administrative umbrella while a DUI sits under the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). When you’re drinking and driving, you’ll be facing both departments.

Not every arrest is the same. The degree of intoxication is a consideration. You’ll be charged with a DUI or a DWAI. A DUI is a more serious offence while a DWAI is defined as driving a vehicle after drugs or alcohol have been used. It is believed, based on how much your alcohol levels are that your physical and mental abilities are only slightly affected. A DWAI may be a charge if an officer doesn’t have enough proof of a DUI. This charge can be given for someone who is suspected of drinking, or using drugs, including over-the-counter medication.

2. Accept the Consequences of Drinking and Driving

It’s important to not take the legal consequences of a DUI lightly. There are going to be legal and financial issues that you face even if it’s your first offence. The Colorado Department of Transportation has warned that even a first offence will cost most drivers at least $10,000. This includes legal fees, fees to get your license back, fees for probation supervision, and court costs. When you do get your license back, you’ll have to pay more for car insurance. This figure is based on the most minimal of fines. Drinking and driving is a very expensive mistake.

3. Know the Three Areas of a DUI/DWI

As you’re going to have issues from all angles, it’s important to know what you’re up against. There are administrative, criminal, and financial penalties. Administrative penalties include losing your licence. The criminal penalties include fines and community service. Within both, you’ll be hit with financial penalties.

These penalties can cause many problems in your life. A DUI isn’t just about being caught drinking and driving. There is potentially a larger problem not being addressed. Your problem with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes a DUI is a blessing and it is considered a legal intervention when looked upon in a positive light. This can be the opportunity needed to attend the alcohol education you may be forced to do. Past that, you may wish to consider alcohol rehabilitation to further solidify positive changes. Getting a second DUI felony by getting caught drinking and driving again comes with further ramifications and you may lose everything.

4. Be open to the Alcohol Education Courses

It’s natural to be in denial if you do have a problem with alcohol. One of the consequences of drinking and driving in Colorado is that there are mandatory alcohol education courses. The court will often use an alcohol evaluation to see what kind of courses or treatment options you should attend. The court will have an alcohol treatment center or therapist evaluate what your relationship to alcohol or substances are.

This actually is helpful for you because you may just be getting the help you need. The court will define what courses you should take. These courses highlight how dangerous drinking and driving is. They may advise you to attend a full addiction treatment program. Getting this neutral decision based on expert opinions could be the help you need to recover from a problem you were perhaps not willing to look at previously.

5. Try for a Court Plea

The official state site for Colorado states that while the court may require you to take an alcohol course, you may also be able to plea bargain a lesser charge for attending. Your sentence may be deferred. By accepting the order to go through the course or rehabilitation program the court gives you, there may be fewer charges. The law in Colorado may require you to take alcohol classes if the courts don’t in order to get your licence back. It may be a long shot but perhaps your only opportunity to have the courts go easier on you. The rehabilitation process for someone with DUI charges is not punishment but helpful. It allows you to understand that you have created a problem by doing something risky that involved drugs or alcohol. This is a wakeup call for many.

6. Know the Phases of a DUI Charge

As the process of being charged with drinking and driving in Colorado is cumbersome and somewhat confusing, it’s good to know what you’re up against. There are seven stages of the DUI process. They are as follows:

Stage 1 – The Arrest

Some people are arrested when caught drinking and driving while others will receive a citation. The citation is still considered an arrest even if you weren’t taken to jail. The police officer has the authority to send you to a detox facility, put you in prison, or call someone to pick you up. Your vehicle will likely be impounded.

Stage 2 – Express Consent Hearing

If you refused a breath or blood test, you have one week from the time you were arrested to request an Express Consent hearing. This is located at the DMV. It’s best to do this as soon as possible. The DMV will send you a letter, which will be called the Notice of Hearing later. The hearing has to be set within 60 days of the original request at the Express Consent hearing. You will get a copy of police reports.

Stage 3 – Arraignment

When you received the citation or ticket from the officer the night you were found drinking and driving, it should have certain details on it. This includes the time, date, and location of the court appearance you must attend. This is known as the arraignment date. You will be advised of your pending charges and potential penalties you may receive.

This is just one of many court dates you’ll be dealing with to deal with the legal DUI ramifications. Failing to appear to your DUI court dates will cause a Failure to Appear Warrant to your name. There will be a bench warrant out for your arrest and things will get a lot worse. The DMV will suspend you license if you still had it. To get your licence back, you’ll have to clear the warrant and pay the fine. In some cases, you may have been required to post bond or bail. Your arraignment would then be called a Bond Appearance.

Stage 4 – Conferences Before the Trial

A pre-trial conference will be a schedule court appearance that entails going to court to meet with a district attorney. The facts of your case and discovery needs will be discussed. You can also negotiate plea offers which is where the discussion of alcohol education or rehabilitation can be brought up. It might seem like a scary prospect but what you’re dealing with is a result of a potential addiction to alcohol.  It’s an opportunity to get the help you need and hopefully lesson your DUI charges.

There will often be between two to four pre-trial conferences. This is the negotiation stage to bring the discovery and case information to light. Your lawyer will likely do their best to lessen your sentence if there happens to be discrepancies.

Stage 5 – Motions

This stage involves the legal arguments made to the judge. Your attorney and the district attorney will argue the case law. This is the legal argument phase which comes after written motions which would have been filed with the court. The judge will suppress evidence at this point. It’s important to note that the judge usually favors prosecution in these matters.

Stage 6 – Jury Trial

Your case might be presented to a jury where they determine whether you’re guilty or not guilty. A DUI misdemeanor jury will have six jury members and these types of trials will often last two days or more.

Stage 7 – Sentencing

Cases that don’t end up in dismissal will require sentencing. This is where you are given the punishment to fit the crime of drinking and driving. If you have had a DUI felony before, chances are, you’re going to be heavily punished. If it’s a misdemeanor and your BAC wasn’t so high, you will probably get the minimum sentence. It’s still going to take a toll on your life and finances but you will likely not be imprisoned. If you need your vehicle for work, there may be allowance.

7. Stay Sober During The DUI Legal Motions

One of the most important things to do is to abstain from drugs and alcohol during the process of DUI charges. The judge may order you to stay sober and abstain from any substance. There may be an order to refrain from excessive use of alcohol. You may be monitored and you may be ordered to attend a victim impact panel run by MADD.

In lieu of a mandatory 5-day jail sentence, this may suspended as the judge may order you to go to alcohol education classes and therapy. If you don’t complete the course or therapy, the judge will likely reinstate the sentence. Causing any friction within the DUI case could cost you time and money. Keeping yourself level headed through the process is your best bet to getting through this stressful time.

8. Get a DUI Lawyer

It’s important to get a lawyer that knows all the rules and process of DUI legal matters. A general practice lawyer may understand a good deal of the DUI laws but a DUI lawyer knows the judges and the DA. They are fully knowledgeable on DUI, giving you the best chance to plead your case. One of the advantages of getting a DUI defense lawyer is to keep your driving privilege. Not having the ability to drive for up to one year can cause you to lose your job. You may not be able to meet family obligations either. There are certain complexities that occur within the DMV that can make it challenging to keep your licence. A DUI lawyer knows how to create arguments that will give you the best opportunity to keep your licence. They are also your best bet for a reduced sentence or for seeing any cracks of evidence within the case.

9. Understand That You Were a Danger to Others

When you know the facts about DUI and DWI, you are going to feel better equipped to understand just what you’re up against. This allows you to let the important people in your life know what to expect. First, it’s important to come to terms with the problem you have with alcohol or drugs. Statistics say that a drinking and driving charge usually occurs around 80 times before you’re caught. You may feel victimized for all you’re losing with a DUI charge. It is likely you were lucky to not get caught until now. In 2011 alone, 9,878 people were injured or killed by drunk drivers. Drinking and driving is dangerous for everyone on the road. The legal intervention that occurred was perhaps necessary in your situation. Take the lesson learned and adjust so you never get caught up in DUI charges again.

10. Get Treatment after a DUI

If you weren’t obligated to go into rehabilitation by the courts, you should still consider getting help with your drinking. Being convicted of a DUI is a red flag that you may need to go to addiction treatment or alcohol rehab. By drinking and driving, you seriously risk injuring or killing yourself. Why would drinking be that important to put yourself and others at risk?

There may be other signs that you need to enter into rehabilitation or recovery programs. The DUI charges may force you into alcohol education but if some of the issues they speak about ring true, it might be an idea to investigate the problem you have. There are outpatient treatment programs for alcoholism so you don’t have to miss out on obligations and work days.

While getting a DUI or a DWI is not ideal, you have the opportunity to take something away from it. You can reset the way you live your life for the better. Having a DUI charge is often so devastating for so many aspects of your life that you’re forced to look into problem. The effects of drunk driving will be obvious and you will have a long road ahead of you to pay for it. It is a setback but sometimes it is a blessing.

If the courts order you to abstain from alcohol, this can give you time to see how that feels not to drink. If you experience cravings and can’t stop yourself from drinking despite the ramifications, it will become obvious to you that there is a problem. If you still can’t see it within yourself, many times, you’ll be monitored and called on if you do drink.

If you have a family, you can ask for their support and let them know you’re willing to make changes. You don’t have to go through the process of dealing with alcohol recovery and a DUI legal battle alone. Asking for help in this situation is ideal because there’s so much attention on you. There would be no better time to recover. You may benefit in legal matters, your job, and with your family. Owning your problem can be a major turning point.