What Happens in Colorado If You Crash While Drinking?

If you cause an accident while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you face not only a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charge, but also other serious criminal charges that could be punishable by lengthy incarceration and driver’s license revocation.

The exact charges resulting from a DWI accident will depend on whether anyone was injured or killed, and if so, the severity of the injuries. Other circumstances surrounding the offense may also affect sentencing and penalties.

Below, we cover the criminal charges that can arise from a DWI accident, the circumstances under which the charges are pressed, and the criminal penalties you could face if convicted.  Colorado is one of the strictest states for DWI traffic violations, so you can expect severe sentencing.

Reckless Driving

Even if the accident did not cause any bodily injury, you will likely still be charged with reckless driving in addition to your DWI. This is a Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $300.

Careless Driving

Most Denver DWI accidents result in an additional charge for careless driving, which is described as:

  • Driving in an illegal or imprudent manner without regard for the circumstances of the accident,
  • In which the driver’s accidents caused some degree of bodily injury to another driver, passenger, or pedestrian.

Sentencing and penalties for Careless driving are as follows:

  • Class 1 traffic misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000

Third-Degree Assault

A DWI accident resulting in an injury may result in a Third Degree Assault charge so long as the injury is not deemed “serious.”

Sentencing and penalties for a Third-Degree Assault conviction are as follows:

  • Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000

Vehicular Assault

Vehicular assault is defined as follows:

  • Causing serious bodily injury to another party,
  • While driving a vehicle recklessly or while impaired by drugs or alcohol (DWI).

Sentencing and penalties for vehicular assault are as follows:

  • Class 5 Felony punishable by 2-6 years imprisonment with a mandatory 3-year parole
  • Fine of $2,000-$500,000

Vehicular assault is charged only when someone is seriously injured by a drunk driver. Therefore, this charge is harshly prosecuted, and if convicted, you can expect for your sentence to be on the high end of these ranges.

Vehicular Homicide

You will be charged with vehicular homicide if you:

  • Drive under the influence (DUI), or drive recklessly, and
  • This results in the death of another.

Vehicular homicide for driving while impaired in Colorado is punishable by the following:

  • Class 3 felony punishable by 4-12 years imprisonment and a fine of $3,000-$750,000
  • If extraordinary aggravating factors are present, the sentence can be increased to 24 years

Like murder, vehicular homicide is one of the most aggressively prosecuted Colorado criminal offenses. When someone allegedly dies due to the actions of another, people want to see justice served, which places prosecutors under increased pressure.

Denver Vehicular Homicide Defense


This means that the investigation will be thorough, and they will strive to make the evidence against you very strong. Prosecutors are also more likely to seek the maximum possible sentence.

Depending on the specifics of the incident you are being accused of, a DWI accident is a serious offense that could potentially land you decades of jail time and a criminal record that will come back to haunt you. Fighting back against these charges is your best chance at avoiding harsh criminal penalties and protecting your future.



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.