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Loss of your Colorado Driver’s License is sometimes the most devastating consequence of a DUI or DWAI, especially if your family or career depends on you driving. One of the most important things a DUI defense lawyer does is protect your driver’s license. What follows is an introduction to the typical DMV consequences of a DUI investigation and arrest. There are three primary ways that the DMV can suspend your driver’s license or a DUI or DWAI, and the interaction between all the different rules are quite complex. The information below can not take into account every interaction between the different types of revocation, and they do not attempt to describe every possible way of early reinstatement. Contact a Denver criminal defense lawyer for help in understanding and fighting the DMV consequences of your DUI case.

Refusal & Per Se Suspensions

Under Colorado law, you are deemed to have given your consent to a chemical test if there is probable cause to believe you are guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol, or drugs or both. If you refuse a lawful request for a test, you will lose your driver’s license for at least 1 year. If you take a test, and your blood or breath alcohol content is greater than .08 your license will be suspended for a per se violation. Express consent & per se revocations must be challenged in administrative hearings, not criminal court, though a good criminal defense attorney will be able to handle that. To do so, urgent action is required upon being given notice of your suspension. The basics are as follows:

1st refusal                     1 year

2nd refusal                     2 years

3rd+ refusal                    3 years


1st BAC .08 or higher           9 months

2nd BAC .08 or higher           1 year

3rd+ BAC .08 or higher          2 years

DUI & DWAI Conviction Suspensions

The DMV may also impose a suspension of your driver’s license based on what, if anything, you are convicted of in criminal court. Typically these suspensions are concurrent to the per se revocations, but consecutive to any suspension for a refusal. Note also, that both DUI & DWAI are considered major traffic offenses. If you get 3 major offenses within 7 years, you become a habitual traffic offender and lose your license for 5 years, with grave penalties if you are caught driving under that suspension.

1st DUI                          9 months

2nd DUI or DWAI w/in 5 years     1 year

3rd+ DUI or DWAI                 2 years

Early Reinstatement with Interlock

Recent law changes have made it easier to reinstate your driver’s license following the DUI revocations described above, but reinstatement requires use of an approved ignition interlock device for a lengthy period, typically two years or more. If you refused a test, the minimum period of no driving prior to reinstatement with interlock is 60 days. If you completed a test, the minimum number is 30 days. There are other requirements to reinstatement, such as alcohol classes, and driving a vehicle without an interlock device is a separate criminal charge. So even reinstated drivers will face challenges and risks.

Points Suspensions

For criminal conviction of a DUI, 12 points are imposed. For DWAI convictions, 8 points. These points may trigger a revocation of your driver’s license, but if they do they are typically concurrent to any other revocation imposed by the DMV. Just as importantly, though, these points will stay on your record for a while, even after you reinstate your license. This means that you may be on a short leash at the DMV well after your criminal case is done.

For an adult, the following triggers a suspension:
12 points in 12 months OR
18 points in 24 months

For someone 18 to 20 years old:
9 points in 12 months OR
12 points in 24 months

For someone 16-17 years old:
6 points in 12 months

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