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The Differences Between DWAI and DUI Explained by Your Denver Criminal Defense Attorney


September 21, 2016

You may be familiar with the terms “DUI” and “DWAI” and are unsure how they are different. There is a difference between the two and there are also other terms surrounding these charges that may be used as well. Learn what these terms mean, blood alcohol limits and penalties from your Denver criminal defense attorney.
 
  • Differences: “DUI” stands for “driving under the influence” and “DWI” stands for “driving while intoxicated.” A DWI is often confused for the offense of "DWAI" or Driving While Ability Impaired. In the state of Colorado, DWAI is a lesser alcohol-related driving offense. As you can see, all these acronyms are similar. Those who have been drinking may be charged with a DUI. One may be charged with a DWAI after consuming drugs or alcohol enough to affect your abilitiy to safely operate a motor vehicle TO THE SLIGHTEST DEGREE. When comparing the two, the consequences under a DUI are greater than a DWAI.
  • Blood Alcohol Testing and Limits: The more alcohol a person has consumed, the higher their blood alcohol concentration, known as BAC, will be. This is how much alcohol is in a person’s blood after consuming alcoholic beverages. A police officer can determine this on the scene, if the driver consents, through a portable breathalyzer test, also known as a PBT. It is important to note that these tests are inherently flawed and you should NOT submit to this portable, voluntary test.  However, if the officer has probable cause to believe that you are driving under the influence and arrests you, they will ask you to submit to an evidentiary blood or breath test.  If you refuse to take a test, you will have to use an Ignition Interlock system for two years and will get a Persistent Drunk Driver designation. Learn more from The Colorado State Web Portal’s “Ignition Interlock Restricted License” article. According to the Denver DMV “DUI and DWI in Colorado” page, there are two different BAC levels that depend on age. The legal limit BAC for those over 21 is 0.08 percent. If a person is younger than 21, their legal limit is 0.02 percent. Now, it is important to know if your BAC is under 0.08 percent but higher than 0.05 percent, you may be charged with a DWAI.
  • Penalties for Driving Under the Influence: If you are found to be driving under the influence, it is important to know that the DMV can suspend your license, independent of any finding in a criminal court.  A jury can find you not guilty but the DMV can still suspend your license.  The lenght of suspension will depend on a number of factors including any past DUI or DWAI convictions and your blood alcohol content in the current case.  A DWAI conviction will result in eight points on your license and you can have a fine between $200 and $500. You may also face up to 180 days in jail and community service hours. For a first DUI conviction, your license can be suspended for nine months, a fine between $600 and $1000 can be imposed, you face up to a year in jail plus community service hours and alcohol education.

If you are facing DUI or DWAI charges, contact the Law Office of John L. Buckley. We will defend you against these charges, explore every possible defense, and minimize the impact these charges on your life. Read this advice on what to do if you are pulled over for a DUI and call the office at 303-501-1800 for help.