February 21, 2024
Most adults know that a DUI can be very expensive. In fact, estimated costs are somewhere between $5,000 and $12,000 for a first offense. But what about the “less serious” Colorado charge, the DWAI?
Colorado is one of only two states—New York is the other—with DWAI laws on the books. Short for Driving While Ability Impaired, a DWAI allows police to charge drivers with a BAC over .05%, but below the nationwide legal limit of .08%. To be convicted of a DWAI, prosecution and law enforcement need only prove that the suspect was impaired “to the slightest degree.”
This “proof” is wholly dependent on the testimony of the arresting officer. Impairment could mean anything from sideswiping a car to turning too widely to drifting out of your lane—mistakes even sober drivers make.
It’s a lesser charge than a DUI, but it’s still a criminal offense (a misdemeanor) with serious consequences. In fact, having a DWAI on your record is viewed as more or less the same as a DUI in the event of future arrests. If you are charged with a second DWAI offense, you face the same penalties as someone with a previous DUI on their record.
First offense DWAI convictions in Colorado can result in a mandatory minimum period of incarceration of two days, with a maximum of 180 days, with a possibility for a suspended sentence. That’s bad enough, but a DWAI will also cost you monetarily.
The Financial Impact of a DWAI Conviction
The final cost will vary a great deal from case to case. However, we can make some loose estimates, assuming that: (1) this is your first DWAI offense and (2) no damage occurred.
Criminal Penalties. The criminal penalties for a DWAI include a fine ranging from $200 to $500. This fine is not your “bottom line” however. The amount doesn’t cover the costs associated with completion of the other terms of your sentence. There is also a surcharge, usually ranging from $100 to $500. Learn more about the associated fines here.
Insurance Rates. After conviction for a driving offense, the biggest cost often comes from raised insurance rates. As far as insurers are concerned, it does not matter whether the conviction is for a DUI or DWAI—most carriers charge the same increased rate for a DUI or a DWAI.
Usually, insurance companies will raise the rate of a high risk driver somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 annually. This increase can last between 3 and 6 years, which adds somewhere between $3,000 and $9,000 to the final cost.
Loss of Income. Unlike a DUI, a DWAI does not usually result in your license between taken away. However, points are added to your driving record. For people who already have points on their record, this could push them over the limit, and their license may be suspended anyway.
You can expect to miss work, however, even if you are allowed to keep your license. Jail, community service, court dates, and remedial classes can all take valuable time out of your work week. Some estimates put the overall loss of income during these proceedings at $1,000 to $4,000 dollars.
It would be impossible to estimate the overall affect a criminal charge has on your career. However, if you intend to apply for a different job in the future, a criminal record is often more than enough to sabotage your chances – especially in today’s competitive job market.
Other Fees. In addition to what’s already been mentioned, a defendant convicted of DWAI can receive a series of related fees and must contribute to several funds. Probation, alcohol and drug evaluation, and attendance at a victim impact panel may also be required and may involve additional costs. These vary from situation to situation, but usually are somewhere in the realm of $500 dollars, according to CODOT.
Remember, a DWAI arrest is not a conviction. Talk to an experienced Colorado DWAI/DUI lawyer to greatly improve your chances of a favorable outcome in your case.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.