Is a DUI a Criminal Conviction?

Categories: DUI Defense

Glass for beers, car key, and a handcuff.

Any type of DUI, whether it is under the influence of alcohol, prescription medications, or illegal substances, are criminal acts. Even as a first-time offender, you are facing a criminal charge – and a serious one at that. Therefore, it is critical that you hire an attorney if you have been arrested for a DUI. While you are facing severe criminal charges, a defense attorney may help lessen the impact of those charges on the rest of your life.

The Penalties of a DUI in Colorado

As a criminal offense, a DUI in Colorado can range from a misdemeanor to a felony charge. For first-time offenders, a misdemeanor offense is typical, which may include up to five days or as long as one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, community service, and a required alcohol education class.

What about Drug DUIs versus Alcohol DUIs?

Any DUI is a criminal conviction. The penalties for driving under the influence of drugs is similar to that of alcohol, and the same goes for driving while under the influence of marijuana. While recreational cannabis is legal in the state, it is not legal to operate a motor vehicle while impaired. Even if you have a medical use card, you are still committing a criminal act by driving under the influence.

Colorado defines a DUI under 42-4-1301 (2)(a) stating that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if you have consumed alcohol or drugs, you are affected even slightly by those substances, you are physically or mentally less capable of driving than you would be sober, and you cannot exercise good judgment.

Drug-Related DUIs

Under 42-4-1301, driving under the influence of a drug, legal or otherwise, is a crime. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can fall under this category, too, which is why it is essential that you do not operate a vehicle if you have recently taken a drug that could alter your ability to drive safely.

Can You Refuse a Chemical Test and Avoid a Criminal Conviction?

Now that you know a DUI is a criminal conviction, you may wonder what would happen if the state has no physical evidence you were intoxicated. Refusing to take the chemical test is not only a guaranteed way to lose your driver’s license, but you can still be convicted.

Colorado uses the Express Consent Law, and like other states using similar laws, you are required to take a chemical test while under suspicion of a DUI as part of your driving privilege. When you refuse, the state can revoke your driver’s license for violating that law.

Refusing to Take a Test Can Be Used as an Admission of Guilt

Refusing to take the test, even if you are innocent, can be used in court as evidence of your guilt. The state will argue that an innocent person would not refuse a chemical test that could clear their names.

Likewise, if you were not convicted of a DUI, but you still refused the chemical test, the state of Colorado will penalize you with:

  • An automatic one-year driver’s license suspension;
  • Designate you as a persistent drunk driver (PDD) – even if you were a first-time offender;
  • Require that you take alcohol education and possibly enter a treatment program;
  • Require that you carry SR-22 insurance; and
  • Use an ignition interlock device (IID), at your own cost, for at least one year after you reinstate your driver’s license.

Do DUIs from Other States Count?

Some states will consider past DUIs from another state, and Colorado is one of them. Therefore, if you have a DUI in another state, and then you are arrested for a second offense in Colorado, it is considered your second offense. This means you will face enhanced penalties.

Colorado does not have a lookback period limitation, which means any prior DUI you have on your record can still count. For example, you might have a DUI from California that is 15 years ago, but now you were arrested in Colorado. While most states would consider that too old, Colorado can charge you as a second-time offender for that DUI.

A Conviction Does Result in a Criminal Record

If convicted, you will have a permanent criminal record. Therefore, accusations of a DUI are not something you should ignore. Instead, the second you are arrested, you can exercise your right to speak with an attorney. Stay silent until you do and wait for your lawyer to advise you on how to proceed.

Your first-time offense will only be a misdemeanor, but a misdemeanor is still a criminal conviction, and it is a permanent criminal record. Therefore, that conviction and the DUI arrest will show on any background checks done for employment, housing, and even government benefit programs.

Colorado will not allow you to expunge or seal criminal records either. If you are a minor convicted of a DUI, that rule does not apply. Adults, however, cannot expunge their record of any past DUIs.

The Best Way to Avoid a Criminal Conviction? Hire an Attorney Immediately

The only way to avoid a permanent criminal record for a DUI in Colorado is to fight back against those charges. To do so, you need someone that has experience handling these types of cases.

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein understands what it takes to fight against DUI charges. He has helped countless clients just like you work to get their charges dismissed or at least dropped to something that would not affect you the rest of your life.

Once you are convicted, the punishment does not stop the day you get out of jail. Instead, you have a record that will affect you the rest of your life, and it could even impact your existing career, family situation, and financial stability.

To avoid a criminal conviction for an alcohol-related or drug-related DUI, contact attorney Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. now. You can schedule a free case evaluation by calling 970-704-0888 or requesting more information about his legal services online.

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.