Being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) can disrupt your life, affecting your job, relationships, and ability to pay your bills. If you can avoid the harsher consequences of conviction, you can minimize those disruptions. You may be able to mitigate disruptions through a deferred judgment or DUI alternative sentencing options.
In Colorado, some people can avoid full conviction through a deferred judgment. For those unable to avoid conviction, you may be able to avoid jail time through an appropriate drug and alcohol treatment program and DUI community service. Alternatively, you may be able to arrange work release, a day program, or house arrest.
If you have been charged with DUI, an experienced defense attorney can help you fight for an alternative sentence. At the law offices of Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., we know what alternatives are available, and we will tailor our approach to your unique circumstances.
What Are DUI and DWAI?
In Colorado, there are two charges under the umbrella of intoxicated driving offenses: Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while alcohol impaired (DWAI). Each involves driving after consuming alcohol or drugs. The drugs or alcohol must affect your mental or physical ability to exercise “clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.” While a DUI must make you “substantially incapable,” the drugs or alcohol must only affect you “to the slightest degree” for a DWAI.
If you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, the state can charge you with “DUI per se.” This charge essentially means the state assumes a person with a BAC of 0.08 or higher is incapable of driving safely.
If you plead guilty to DUI and have no prior convictions for DUI or DUI-related offenses—like DWAI, vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, or driving with a revoked license—the prosecutor may offer you a chance to avoid conviction and sentencing. This option is called a deferred judgment. The possibility of receiving a deferred judgment is usually discussed during plea bargaining.
Deferred judgments require you to agree to follow specific terms and conditions set by the prosecutor, similar to probation. The terms of deferred judgment typically include undertaking an alcohol and/or substance abuse evaluation, possible participation in an alcohol and driving safety program, undertake state mandated useful public service, attendance at a Victims Impact panel aka Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) panel, and payment of fines, court costs and possible restitution.
Before offering deferred judgment, the prosecutor will usually consider:
- Whether your conduct injured anyone;
- How willing you are to address any underlying conditions that contributed to your DUI charge; and
- How successful DUI rehabilitation is likely to be for you.
If you injured someone or appear uncooperative, the prosecutor is unlikely to support deferred judgment.
Upon your successful completion of the deferred judgment terms, the judge dismisses the charge against you “with prejudice,” meaning the charges cannot be refiled. If you fail to complete the terms, the judge can reinstate your guilty plea and sentence you accordingly.
Although successful completion of deferred judgment terms results in the charge being dismissed, deferred judgments still count as prior offenses unless you successful complete the terms and conditions of your deferred sentence.
DUI Alternative Sentencing
When avoiding conviction is not possible, you may still be able to minimize the harshness of a DUI charge. Your options differ depending on whether you have any prior convictions for DUI or related offenses.
If You Have No Prior Offenses
Convictions of DUI or DWAI carry mandatory prison sentences, but the judge can suspend your sentence if you:
- Have no prior DUI or DWAI offenses,
- Participate in a drug and alcohol evaluation,
- Complete an appropriate treatment program,
- Pay a fine between $200 and $500, and
- Complete 24 to 48 hours of community service.
In appropriate circumstances, the judge may suspend the fine or the community service.
If You Have Prior Offenses
When you have prior convictions for DUI or DUI-related offenses, you are less likely to avoid jail time. If the DUI or DUI-related offense was more than five years ago, you have more options.
DUI or Related Offense More Than Five Years Ago
If your previous conviction was more than five years ago, the judge can order your temporary release from jail for:
- A job search,
- Working, including caring for dependent children or family members,
- Attending school, or
- Medical treatment.
The court can also order, instead of time in a county jail:
- House arrest,
- Participation in a day reporting program,
- Participation in mental health treatment, or
- Participation in a re-entry program.
When under house arrest, you typically wear an ankle monitor that tracks your whereabouts.
Day reporting programs are alternatives to incarceration that allow a person to live at home while reporting daily to a rehabilitation program. Mental health treatment may be similarly intensive. Re-entry programs usually provide housing and employment assistance.
DUI or Related Offense Less Than Five Years Ago
If you were convicted of a DUI offense within the last five years, the judge cannot modify your jail sentence except to allow you temporary release to:
- Work at a job you had at the time of sentencing,
- Attend school you were enrolled in at the time of sentencing, or
- Participate in a court-ordered alcohol and drug driving safety program.
Defense Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., Can Help
If you have been charged with DUI, our office can help fight for an alternative to a highly disruptive jail sentence to minimize the effect of a DUI conviction. We have extensive experience defending against DUI and related charges, including negotiating alternative sentences that fit the unique needs of our clients. Contact us today to get started.