Almost everyone is familiar with DUI charges, but not many people know about DWAI charges. DUI stands for driving under the influence, while DWAI stands for driving while ability impaired. What’s the difference between DUI and DWAI charges? Here’s what you should know if you are being accused of committing either one of these crimes:

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Testing

The legal limit in the state of Colorado is 0.08, which means if you are above this limit, you can be charged with DUI. However, many people don’t realize that they can still face criminal charges even if their BAC is below 0.08. Drivers who have a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 can be charged with DWAI because the law assumes that anyone within this BAC range is impaired. Furthermore, a police officer can arrest you for DWAI even if your BAC is below 0.05. However, in order to do this, the police officer must have a reason to believe that your ability to drive has been impaired.

Determining the Appropriate Criminal Charges

The district attorney will sometimes charge someone with DWAI when he believes the defendant was under the influence, but does not have enough evidence to convict him of DUI. In some cases, it’s possible to have DUI charges reduced to DWAI charges with the help of a criminal defense attorney.


The penalties for each of these crimes are different. DUI is a more serious crime than DWAI, which means the penalties are more serious as well. If you are a first time offender, the penalties for DUI could include up to one year in jail, up to $1000 in fines, 48-96 hours of community service, and a license suspension. However, if you are convicted of DWAI for the first time, you will face up to 180 days in jail, up to $500 in fines, and 24-48 hours of community service.

Both of these criminal charges also add points to your driving record. DUI adds 12 points, while a DWAI adds 8 points. Keep in mind that anyone who has earned 12 points on their driving record within a year will have their license suspended. This means that even though your driver’s license is not automatically suspended if you are charged with DWAI, it could be suspended if adding these 8 points to your record gives you a total of 12 points that have been earned over the last year.

Have you been charged with DUI or DWAI? If so, contact Reisch Law Firm today. A criminal charge does not always lead to a conviction—especially if you are represented by our criminal defense team. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 303-291-0555 or filling out this online form.