Drunk Driving vs. Impaired Driving in Colorado

Posted On October 28, 2022 / By Manning Law / Car Accidents,Drunk Driving Accidents

It is against the law in all 50 states to operate a motor vehicle while impaired or intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol. It takes 100 percent of a driver’s facilities to safely and properly drive a car. If a driver is impaired to even the slightest degree by an intoxicating substance, he or she puts everyone else on the road at risk.

Drunk Driving Crash Statistics in Colorado

Driving under the influence is an extremely dangerous tort or wrongdoing. According to data collected by the Colorado Department of Transportation in 2021, 37 percent of all fatal car accidents involved an impaired or drunk driver. Since 2019, Colorado has seen a 44 percent increase in the number of deaths connected to intoxicated drivers. Despite the known risks of drunk driving, 26,165 DUI arrests were made in 2019 in Colorado. The conviction rate for DUIs was high, at 88 percent.

DUI vs. DWAI in Colorado

In Colorado, a driver can face two different charges for the crime of driving while intoxicated, depending on the circumstances: driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI). The definitions, parameters and penalties are different for both of these crimes: 

  • DUI: Section 42-4-1301(f) of the Colorado Revised Statutes defines “driving under the influence” as driving a vehicle after consuming alcohol or one or more drugs or any combination thereof to a degree where the person is “substantially incapable to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.”
  • DWAI: The definition of “driving while ability impaired” in Colorado is driving a vehicle after consuming alcohol or one or more drugs or any combination thereof that affects the person to the slightest degree so that the driver is “less able than the person ordinarily would have been to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.”

The key difference is that a driver can get a DUI when intoxicated to the point of being substantially incapable vs. a DWAI when the person is less able than ordinary to control a motor vehicle. In Colorado, driving while ability impaired is a less serious crime than driving under the influence. Both are dangerous, however, and can come with major consequences.

Is Impaired Driving Against the Law in Colorado?

Yes. A driver in Colorado does not have to be legally drunk to break the state’s drunk driving laws. Although the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08 percent in Colorado, a driver could be arrested with a lower BAC if the officer believes the driver’s ability to operate the motor vehicle is impaired to even the slightest degree. 

The penalties associated with both of these crimes can include fees, license suspension or revocation, points against the driver’s license, and jail time. The penalties for DWAI are generally less than a DUI, however. A first-time DWAI, for example, does not revoke the driver’s license, while a first-time DUI comes with driver’s license revocation for nine months.

What Are Your Rights After Being Injured by a Drunk or Impaired Driver in Colorado?

If you get injured in a car accident in Colorado caused by a driver who appears to be drunk or impaired, you are eligible to file a claim with the driver’s car insurance company. Call the police immediately if you suspect impairment. The police can test the driver for drug or alcohol intoxication and may make an arrest. If the driver is later convicted of DUI or DWAI, this can be used as evidence to support your insurance claim or lawsuit. Working with an experienced car accident lawyer in Aurora, CO can provide skilled legal representation and help you secure financial compensation. 

Every driver in Colorado must carry a minimum amount of liability insurance to pay for at-fault car accidents. If you or a loved one gets injured in a drunk driving collision, that driver’s insurance company will be responsible for covering your medical bills, vehicle repairs, lost wages and more. The team of Aurora personal injury attorneys at Manning Law have the experience and resources to protect your rights and hold the drunk driver liable for damages and personal injury. Contact an attorney at Manning Law for assistance with a drunk driving accident claim as soon as possible to maximize your opportunity for financial compensation. Whether the driver was drunk, drugged or slightly impaired, you could be eligible for compensation.