What Happens If You Plead Guilty to DUI

Ryan Robertson
By: Ryan Robertson
PublishedDec 21, 2023
4 minute read

Let’s talk about accountability. It’s a powerful sense of personal duty, especially after you’ve made a mistake. There is regret and a desire to put your transgression behind you. If you’ve been accused of drinking and driving, taking accountability is a noble reaction. Unfortunately, it may not be the wisest course when facing the criminal justice system. It’s understandable to want to put such a mess behind you. But … what happens when you plead guilty to DUI? Keep reading or watch my video to find out.

What is a Guilty Plea? 

A guilty plea is a legal admission of wrongdoing. At your arraignment, when asked by the judge how you plead to a charge, you confess your guilt.  Afterward, there is nothing more you can do but accept the court’s punishment.

You are no longer entitled to a defense against the charges.

Less informed individuals plead guilty to DUI all the time. They’re ashamed, overwhelmed, and eager to put the incident behind them. We call this “throwing yourself on the mercy of the court.”

Many of these people hope that by taking responsibility and showing contrition, they’ll receive leniency in return. But Colorado courts are not so lenient when it comes to DUI.

Mandatory Penalties for Pleading Guilty to DUI 

It’s true that if you plead guilty, the judge might not throw the whole book at you. A misdemeanor charge of Driving Under the Influence — especially a first offense — probably won’t result in jail time. However, you’ll face plenty of restrictions and other requirements without having to step foot into a jail cell.

If you plead guilty for having a blood alcohol concentration between .08 and .19, you face:

  • Probation,
  • 48 to 96 hours of mandatory community service,
  • Required alcohol/drug education and rehabilitation,
  • Fines and court costs from $600 to $1,000, and
  • Mandatory attendance at a Victim Impact Panel
  • Up to a year of jail

A victim impact panel is a class run by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It involves you listening to victims and past offenders speak about the effect drunk driving has had on their lives.

Pleading Guilty After a BAC of .20 or Higher 

A BAC of .20 or higher after arrest means jail, with a mandatory minimum of 10 days, even for first offenders. Judges can extend this sentence for aggravating factors. Other DUI penalties, as listed above, apply in addition to jail time.

Restoring Driving Privileges 

In Colorado, the Division of Motor Vehicles is likely to attempt to take away your driver’s license after a DUI arrest. You have a week after receiving notice of a suspension to request a hearing with the DMV to challenge a suspension of your license. If your license is suspended, restoration often comes with conditions such as:

  • periodic mandatory alcohol/drug testing, and
  • installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car.

An IID prevents your car from starting if you don’t blow into it or if it detects alcohol on your breath. You’re also responsible for all IID costs, from installation ($70 to $200) to equipment rental fees ($60 to $90 per month).

Long-Term Consequences of Pleading Guilty to DUI 

As I mentioned earlier, many individuals plead guilty to DUI so they can put the ordeal behind them. They assume they’ll pay a fine, take some classes, serve their probation, and move on. In a perfect world, maybe.

Colorado DUI convictions — and guilty pleas — never go away. They are a blight on your record until the day you die. If you get your first and only DUI at age 23, it’s still on your record when you’re 73.

Here’s how having a DUI on your record can hurt you:

  • Insurance: Expect to pay far higher rates for automobile insurance than you did before. Your premiums could double. Worse, your insurance carrier could refuse to cover you, and you might have to turn to “high-risk” providers, which can often be predatory in nature. A DUI on your record can even impact your health insurance costs.
  • Employment: You could lose your current job over a DUI conviction/guilty plea. Also, you will have difficulty attaining certain positions, such as teacher, coach, doctor, lawyer, bank employee, clergy or faith-related employee, military officer, or any job requiring security clearance.
  • Travel: You will face added scrutiny and restrictions when traveling abroad, especially in Canada. Furthermore, you may encounter difficulty when trying to rent a car.

Weigh Your Options Before Pleading Guilty 

If you’ve been arrested and charged with DUI, you have one chance to defend yourself. Pleading guilty will invite severe penalties, restrictions, and long-term stigma.

Defenses against a DUI charge do exist. Don’t “throw yourself on the mercy of the court” without at least first talking to a lawyer.

Common Defense Strategies

Here is where an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney can make all the difference. Good counsel can weaken the DUI charges against you by challenging:

  • Probable Cause: Police officers need a valid reason — not just a ‘hunch’ — to stop your vehicle. They must also have reasonable suspicion, based on observable factors and evidence, before arresting you for DUI. If police lacked probable cause for either the stop or the arrest, the entire case can be dismissed.
  • Unreliable BAC Results: Police and technicians must follow strict procedures for blood or breathalyzer tests. Not all police departments hold up to an aggressive lawyer’s scrutiny of their methods. Inconsistent, unreliable BAC results can ruin any case police thought they had.
  • Rights Violations: Did you know police must let you choose between a breathalyzer or blood draw after arresting you? It’s true. If they failed to give you the choice, their case is undermined. This goes for any breach, including unlawful searches, failing to read your Miranda rights, and more.
Plea Bargaining 

There’s a difference between pleading guilty at arraignment and taking a plea deal later in the process. Pleading guilty is nothing less than confessing to the charges against you. This is a losing proposition in most situations, and one I don’t generally recommend.

Plea bargaining is negotiating an agreement with the prosecution. In exchange for your guilty plea, the prosecution reduces the charge, or the penalty. You and your lawyer make a deal with prosecutors — one that spares you a record that haunts you for life.

Get Yourself a DUI Lawyer

You are innocent until proven guilty. Remember that. At Robinson & Henry, we have experienced defense attorneys who will fight for you. We know this is a stressful time for you. Don’t take it on by yourself. If you’ve been charged with DUI or DWAI, take a positive step now. Call 303-688-0944 for your case assessment.

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