If your New Year’s Eve celebration ended with flashing lights, sirens, and DUI charges, you may be afraid of what 2019 will bring. The holiday season has some of the highest numbers of drunk driving charges of the whole year. But you’re not alone. Here’s what to do if you are facing New Year’s DUI charges.
This blog will discuss what to do if your holiday celebrations came with New Year’s DUI charges. It will explain what to expect when it comes to the process and possible defenses. It will also explain the consequences if your 2019 starts with a DUI conviction.
Holiday Season Brought Higher DUI Enforcement
The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is one of the highest seasons for drunk driving crashes, and DUI charges. Over the last 5 years, an average of 300 people have died due to drunk driving during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Police departments in Colorado and across the country respond to those high numbers by ramping up DUI enforcement efforts including sobriety checkpoints and increased patrols. That means more Colorado drivers will face New Year’s DUI charges, than at most other times of the year.
Colorado DUI Process
Whether your DUI charges happen on January 1st, December 31st, or anywhere in between, the process is the same. In most cases, DUI charges start with a traffic stop — either on the road or at a sobriety checkpoint. If the officer has reason to believe you may have been drinking he or she will ask you to perform sobriety tests, and request to perform a breath-based blood alcohol test. You may be taken to detox or the officer may allow someone to drive you home. If your DUI charges were the result of an accident, there may be a blood test instead.
You should walk away from the traffic stop or arrest with a citation or ticket that lists your DUI charges. This is officially a “Uniform Summons and Complaint”. It will tell you when and where you must appear for your first hearing: the Arraignment.
Next, you will need to attend your arraignment or bond appearance (if you were required to post bond to be released from jail). This is where the judge will officially read the charges against you, and possible penalties that go with those charges. The judge or magistrate may also require you to post a bond and abide by certain restrictions, including not drinking or using drugs, while your case is pending.
After the arraignment there may be several pretrial conferences and other hearings as you, your DUI defense attorney and the prosecutor gather information and prepare your case. If you choose to take a plea, that can happen at any of these hearings, in many cases even up to the day of trial.
Trial on a New Year’s DUI charges may be in front of a six-person jury, or the judge. You have a right to ask for a jury trial if you want one. This is where the prosecutor must prove you were driving under the influence of alcohol, and your attorney will present any defenses you may have.
If you have entered a plea to DUI, or the judge or jury decides you are guilty, the final step is sentencing. At this hearing, the judge will assign consequences based on your conviction, your criminal history, and the specific facts in your case.
Consequences of a DUI Conviction
Colorado has two closely related drunk driving charges:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) applies when a person’s blood alcohol content is above 0.08%
- Driving While Ability is Impaired applies when unsafe driving is paired with a blood alcohol content of 0.05% or higher
For minors under age 21, the legal limit is lower: 0.02%.
The legal consequences of a DUI or DWAI conviction include some combination of:
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to 5 years probation
- Up to 96 hours community service
- Up to $1500 in fines for DUI or $1000 in fines for DWAI
There are also administrative penalties through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) including points on the driver’s license, license revocation, and possible installation of an ignition interlock device on the vehicle. If you are a member of the military you could also face disciplinary action or court martial based on your DUI conviction.
If you have a history of past DUI convictions, the consequences get even more severe. A second conviction includes a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail. A third DUI conviction will ensure at least 60 days in jail.
Fighting Back Against New Year’s DUI Charges
There are ways to fight back against New Year’s DUI charges. Depending on the facts in your case, that might be anything from defenses based on how the sobriety tests to performed, to whether there was a legal traffic stop to begin with. If you were out late at a New Year’s Eve celebration you may not even have been drinking. Driving while sleepy is not the same as driving drunk.
That’s why you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to stand with you through the process of facing DUI charges in court. At Aviso Law, LLC, we have experience with the Colorado courts and know what to expect when holiday celebrations result in New Year’s DUI charges. We are here to serve you from the initial arrest, to conviction, sentencing, and through any probation or parole challenges. We will help you understand how the laws work together, and identify your best way forward. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.