Like all other states, driving under the influence of drugs (or DUID) is illegal in Colorado. But unlike other states, Colorado law does not designate a standalone charge for DUID; rather, the offense is divided into the general offenses of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI). Under Colorado law, a person may be found guilty of DUI when he or she operates a vehicle after:
consuming alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, that affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle (C.R.S. § 42-4-1301 (1) (f)).
Whereas, DWAI means:
driving a motor vehicle or vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, that affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle (C.R.S. § 42-4-1301 (1) (g)). The important distinction between the two offenses is that DUI involves a driver who is “substantially incapable” of safely operating a motor vehicle, while DWAI has a lower threshold involving a driver who is only impaired to the “slightest degree” and less able than an ordinary, completely sober person to operate a vehicle. Under both offenses, a person can be found guilty if the prosecution proves that drugs were present in the motorist’s system and some level of impairment was caused by the presence of the substance. The law does not distinguish between drugs that a motorist was legally entitled to consume, such as marijuana or prescriptions drugs taken under a doctor’s order. The operant question is whether the drug or drugs consumed by a motorist caused an inability or impairment to operate a vehicle.
DUID Laws across the States
Every state has some form of DUID law in its traffic code. However, state laws differ as to the level of incapacity or impairment required, and the proof required, to secure a conviction. Generally, there are three types of DUID laws:
1) Laws that require the drug in a motorist’s system to render the driver “incapable” of driving safely;
2) Laws requiring that the drug impair the driver’s ability to operate safely; and
3) “Per se” or “zero tolerance” DUID laws that outlaw driving with a drug or drug metabolite in one’s system while operating a motor vehicle, regardless of incapacity or impairment. This means that a person who may have residual metabolites of a drug in their system from two weeks prior to a traffic stop may be charged with DUID even if the driver showed no signs of impairment or incapacity.
Being Charged with DUID
A motorist is charged with DUID if, during a traffic stop, he or she submits to a blood or urine test and is shown to have drugs in his or her system. This evidence would be combined with testimony from the officer or other witnesses that the motorist was also incapable of driving or showed signs of impairment, causing an operational safety risk. The prosecution must then present the case to the court and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the motorist’s conduct meets the offense requirements of DUI or DWAI under Colorado law. Penalties for DUI and DWAI involving drugs are the same as those involving alcohol or a combination of drugs and alcohol. These penalties can include jail time, fines, and suspension or limitation of driving privileges by the DMV. The severity of these penalties may vary depending on the number of DUI/DWAI offenses on the driver’s record and the driver’s level of intoxication at the time of the stop. If you are charged with DUI/DWAI, attorney Bob Odle is here to protect your rights and driving privileges. Time is of the essence, so contact Odle Law as soon as possible after a DUI/DWAI charge.