Driving under the influence is usually a misdemeanor in Colorado. But it becomes a Class 4 felony when it occurs after three or more prior convictions for separate and distinct incidents of DWAI, DUI, DUI per se, vehicular homicide involving alcohol or drugs, vehicular assault (collectively, DUI) or any combination. A conviction means a guilty verdict, or a deferred sentence or adjudication if you failed to satisfy the conditions of the court. The lookback period for prior DUI convictions is an entire lifetime. Any DUI conviction in any state counts as a prior conviction for felony DUI purposes in Colorado.
DUI Offenses That Can Count as Strikes Against You
DUI is driving under the influence. DUI per se is charged when the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or higher, even if the driver is unimpaired and able to drive. The lesser offense of driving while ability impaired (DWAI) is charged when the defendant’s BAC is between .05% and .079% if police see even the slightest evidence of intoxication. Although recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Colorado, driving under the influence of marijuana is still a DUI offense if it impairs ability to operate a motor vehicle. There is no strict legal limit for marijuana, but if you are arrested, the officer can require a DUI blood or breath test.
Penalties for Felony DUI Conviction
Colorado imposes tough penalties for a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction. Up to six years in prison is the maximum sentence for a Class 4 felony. Judges have some discretion under the law, and not everyone convicted of felony DUI goes to prison. You could go to jail for 90 to 180 days, or, if you qualify for work release, you could be sentenced to 120 days to two years in jail. Penalties can depend on your history, the facts of the case, and any extraordinary mitigating factors. However, if the prosecution can prove aggravating circumstances, the sentence could be up to 12 years in prison – double the maximum sentence for felony DUI.
In addition to jail time or a prison sentence, the judge may impose other sanctions, such as:
- 48 to 120 hours of community service
- Fines of $2,000 to $5,000
- Alcohol or drug education and treatment
- Two years of probation
- At least three years of parole
- Revocation of your driver’s license for a minimum of one year
- Mandatory ignition interlock for two years after your driver’s license is reinstated
Defenses Against Felony DUI Charges
The best defense strategy will depend on the circumstances of your case. Your Colorado criminal defense attorney may:
- Negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf to bring lesser charges in exchange for a plea. (Colorado law prohibits plea bargaining in DUI cases unless the prosecution convinces the judge that the case is weak as originally charged.)
- Work to overturn prior DUI convictions so you will be facing misdemeanor charges instead of felony DUI.
- Argue that evidence should be suppressed because your constitutional rights were violated by the police.
- Argue that the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to convict you.
Why You Need a Lawyer
If you are facing felony DUI charges, you need an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney. At Welsh Law, LLC, we are passionate about the law and dedicated to serving our clients’ best interests. We could put our knowledge, skills, and resources to work for you, to fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Call us at (720) 836-1777 to schedule a free consultation so we can explain your options under the law.