What Happens After You Get Arrested for DUI?

Ryan Robertson
By: Ryan Robertson
PublishedNov 15, 2023
13 minute read

Your life was on one path before the swirling police lights appeared behind you. Now it’s on a detour. You know being charged with driving under the influence is serious. Still, you have questions that keep you awake at night. One in particular: What happens next after you’ve been arrested for DUI?

Bottom Line:

You can’t change what’s already happened. What you can do is try to understand the process you’ll be facing. This legal guide aims to help you with that.

In This Guide:

Navigating the process after a Colorado DUI arrest

Phase 1: The Initial Encounter

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, now is your opportunity to compare what occurred with what should have occurred.

Every DUI charge begins with an encounter between the alleged impaired driver and law enforcement. The most important part about the initial encounter is whether the police officer had a valid reason to pull you over. That’s called probable cause.

Let’s explore some of the reasons police often stop drivers.

Traffic Stop or DUI Checkpoint 

The police can pull you over if they suspect that you’ve committed a traffic violation. This can be anything from speeding, to failing to signal a lane change, to having a headlight or taillight out.

They can also pull you over if they observe signs of impaired driving, including:

  • Swerving from one edge of the lane to the other
  • Making excessively wide turns
  • Weaving haphazardly through traffic
  • Drifting across multiple lanes
  • Erratic breaking and/or accelerating
  • Driving at night without using headlights
  • Straddling the center lane
  • Tailgating other vehicles
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Delayed response to traffic signals (for example, waiting too long at a stop after the light turns green)
DUI Checkpoints 

You don’t necessarily have to speed or drive erratically to get stopped by police. DUI checkpoints are common in Colorado, particularly on holidays and weekends when alcohol and drug consumption are higher. These checkpoints help ensure road safety by detecting and removing impaired drivers.

If you are stopped at a checkpoint, the officer may ask you to take a roadside sobriety test. To be clear, it is your choice if you want to participate in any sort of roadside testing; you are not required to do so.

During the Traffic Stop 

When you spot police lights in your rearview mirror, slow down and pull over to a safe spot.

The officer will approach your driver’s side. Have your license, registration, and proof of insurance ready. Maintain a calm and cooperative demeanor, even if you’re upset about being pulled over.

The police officer will explain why he or she stopped you. During this interaction, the officer will observe you for signs of impairment or intoxication, such as:

  • An alcohol or marijuana odor on your breath or from inside your vehicle
  • Slurred, slowed speech
  • Glassy, unfocused eyes
  • Defensive, belligerent behavior
  • An inability to answer questions, such as “Have you been drinking, or taking any controlled substances?”
  • Any open containers of alcoholic beverages in the vehicle
Roadside Field Sobriety Tests 

If the officer suspects you’re impaired, he or she may ask you to perform a few roadside sobriety tests. These can include:

  • The Walk-and-Turn: The officer asks you to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe, for a certain number of steps. You will be asked to count your steps and to turn around when instructed.
  • The Horizontal Gaze (Nystagmus) Test: The officer will ask you to stand still and follow a small object — a pen, their finger, or a light — with only your eyes. You cannot move your head.
  • The One-Leg Stand: You’ll be asked to balance on one leg and silently count to 30.

If you haven’t been arrested for DUI, it’s important to know that you have the right to refuse a roadside sobriety test. In fact, you should, and here’s why:

  • Roadside tests have been shown to be inaccurate; and,
  • They are subjective; your passing or failing depends wholly on the officer’s judgment.

The Field Sobriety Tests may be used against you as evidence in court.  By agreeing to participate in the roadsides, you may actually be helping convict yourself later on down the line. In other words, roadside sobriety tests are a trap you’re not even required to walk into. So don’t. You can politely decline.

Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) 
A preliminary alcohol screening is a voluntary roadside breathalyzer test. The police officer will give you a handheld device to put in your mouth and blow into.

If you’re over the age of 21 and haven’t been arrested, you have the right to refuse the roadside breathalyzer. A preliminary alcohol screening is not admissible as evidence in court. Therefore, you should only submit to it if you are 100 percent sure you will pass (and even then, you should still decline).

Law Enforcement’s Decision 

Refusing roadside sobriety tests, including the preliminary breathalyzer, will not necessarily prevent your arrest. The police may already believe they have enough probable cause to detain you. A combination of erratic driving and apparent intoxication is enough for your arrest. Of course, if they run a background check and find outstanding warrants, they’ll immediately arrest you, regardless of your sobriety.

Police have a harder decision if they’re not sure you’re impaired. They cannot detain you without probable cause. If you refuse roadside sobriety tests, you deprive them of that certainty. Still, even if it’s a fifty-fifty situation, most Colorado police officers will push forward and make the arrest.

So … what happens then?

Phase 2: Arrest, Testing, and Booking

If you were arrested for DUI, it means police believe there is probable cause to suspect that you drove drunk, drugged, or some combination of the two.

The Arrest 

Whether the police choose to handcuff you or not, you were placed in custody. Legally, this means that you are:

  • Not free to leave voluntarily, and
  • Not free to act independently without the consent of law enforcement.

Most times, the police will inform you of your Miranda rights at the time of the arrest. These are:

  • The right to remain silent, especially if questioned;
  • A warning that anything you say now can be held against you in court;
  • The right to talk to a lawyer and have them with you when you are being questioned; and
  • The right to have a lawyer appointed to defend you, if you can’t afford to hire one.

These rights are guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to anyone who is arrested inside the United States.

Once in custody, the police will confiscate your driver’s license. You will be transported either to a hospital or to the police station for chemical testing, and then for processing at a detox facility or county jail.

Chemical Testing 

If you’re suspected of driving drunk, you can choose to take a breath test or a blood test. Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-1301 (2) (a) mandates that you be given this choice, unless “extraordinary circumstances” intervene.

If you are denied your choice of tests, your DUI case can be dismissed. This provision was tested and upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court in People v. Null (2010).

The express consent statute … not only obligates a driver to take a blood or breath test but also obligates law enforcement to provide a driver with the test that he or she chooses absent extraordinary circumstances. According to the language of the statute and precedent, the prosecution has the burden to show that extraordinary or nonroutine circumstances prevented medical personnel from responding to law enforcement’s requests for a blood draw. — (People v. Null, Colo. 2010)

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) 

You are considered legally intoxicated if an evidentiary test shows a BAC of .08 percent. It does not matter how well you “hold your liquor.” If your breath or blood test shows a .08 BAC, you’ll be charged with DUI.

If your BAC is between .05 and .07, you are still legally impaired. However, you’ll face the slightly less serious charge of DWAI, or Driving While Ability Impaired.

Even if your BAC shows less than .05 percent, you can be charged with DWAI or DUI if you are visibly impaired (for instance, your BAC would be below a .08 or .05 if you haven’t been drinking but did consume drugs prior to driving).

Some Caveats: You cannot change your mind once you choose to take the breath or blood test. Also, if the officer has probable cause to suspect you are intoxicated with a mixture of drugs and alcohol, they can insist on a blood test.

Refusing the Chemical Test
Express consent laws mean you must submit to a chemical test after your arrest in Colorado. Technically, you can still refuse this test after arrest. Refusal can have serious consequences, however, including:
  • One-year license suspension
  • “Persistent drunk driver” designation
  • Mandatory treatment
  • Ignition interlock installation
  • SR-22 insurance form filing
  • Admission of refusal as evidence in court

These penalties for refusing to take the evidentiary test remain even without a DUI conviction.


After DUI testing comes booking/processing. The arresting officer will either process you or turn you over to booking officials at the jail.

The booking routine is pretty straightforward. Police will record personal information such as:

  • Your name and date of birth
  • Current address
  • Driver’s license information, and
  • Your physical features, such as height, weight, hair color, eye color, tattoos, etc.

Police may also:

  • Search you and collect your belongings (they’ll return them to you when you’re released)
  • Take your fingerprints and “mug shot” picture
  • Run a background search on you if they haven’t already, and
  • Assign you to a holding cell until you have arranged bail
Summons, Bail and Release 

Most of the time, if you are arrested for a DUI, you will be served a Summons.  A Summons is what is otherwise known as a ticket, and it will provide you and your attorney with the general information regarding what transpired when you were arrested (for instance, what day and time it was, what the officer cited you for, etc.).  It will also show when your initial court date is, and to which courthouse you are supposed to report.

You may be required under certain circumstances to post bail prior to your release from jail. Bail is money you agree to pay to get released from custody. You also must sign a document, vowing to show up for your court appearances.

Anyone can post your bail to secure your release. It can be a spouse, a family member, a friend, or even your employer. If you cannot afford to post bail — and nobody else is willing or able — a bondsman or bail agency can help you. However, they charge extra fees and will require that you put up some form of collateral first.

In Colorado, someone who must put up bail may be eligible (and may receive) a personal recognizance (PR) bond that doesn’t require putting any money up for release. Instead, you sign a document, agreeing to appear in court on the scheduled date(s).

There is still a monetary value placed on your release. For example, if you are released on a $2,000 “PR” bond and miss your court date, you will be arrested for failure to appear.

Phase 3: Legal Procedures

Once you have been charged with a DUI, you will begin making appearances in front of the court while your case is being handled. Always remember: you are innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Initial Appearance

Your first court date is a mandatory court appearance, unless (under certain circumstances) you have an attorney to represent you. The date, time, and location will be listed on the Uniform Summons and Complaint issued during your arrest.

Your arraignment will generally involve the following:

  • An advisement of the charges and penalties;
  • Talking with the prosecutor on the potential of a plea deal;
  • Establishing conditions of bond;
  • Arguing bail (if still in custody)

Bond conditions are rules you must abide by to stay out of jail until your case is resolved. These conditions may include:

  • No new violations of the law
  • No driving without a valid license or insurance
  • No consumption of alcohol or drugs, and/or
  • Having your sobriety monitored with regular (mandatory) testing

You may also be required to remain in the state of Colorado until your criminal DUI case is resolved if you are on bail. If you are on bail and want to leave the state, you’ll first have to seek the permission of the court and sign a waiver of extradition.

The Bail Hearing

A bail hearing is a hearing in which the topic/issue of your bail is argued.  Sometimes, the bail hearing is combined with another court date (like a pre-trial conference or arraignment). Other times, it is its own standalone hearing.  No matter the type of hearing, a bail argument is very important.  If you find yourself in custody, the judge will take the following into consideration when setting your bail amount:

  1. Charges (including if the prosecution is seeking additional charges beyond the officers): The court will consider what charges you are facing, and if the prosecution is seeking additional charges against you.  So, if since your arrest for DUI, the prosecution learned of other offenses you might have committed at a different time, or finds that you committed other offenses in conjunction with your DUI, that will be a factor the court will consider. For example, you assaulted another patron at a bar an hour before your DUI traffic stop. Or you left the scene of an earlier accident. Or they found stolen merchandise inside your car.
  2. Community impact: This can happen when your DUI arrest comes after you’ve been involved in a car accident. Oftentimes, it can be observed when another driver or passenger suffered more substantial injury than was previously diagnosed, or if there was more damage to someone or something’s property.
  3. You pose a danger: Bail can increase if the judge believes you pose a danger to yourself or others. A demonstrated possibility of violence toward others could increase your bail substantially.

Your attorney can always try to argue for a lower bond amount, even if a bond has previously been set.  They will, however, generally have to provide notice to the court and prosecution. They will often be required to provide new or additional information before the bond amount is lowered (or request even considered).

There may be a chance that if you are out on bond, the judge may increase your bond.  This happens rarely, but does occur when one of the three examples above are present (especially new charges against you).  An increase means you’ll have to post new bail to make up the difference. For example: You’re out of jail on a “PR” bond of $2,000. New charges come to light, so the judge raises your bail to $5,000. You will have to cover the additional $3,000. If you can’t, you’ll be awaiting trial from a holding cell.

Entering Your Plea 

You may be asked to enter a plea at your DUI arraignment or at a subsequent court date. You have two choices.

You can plead:

  • Guilty: You admit that you have committed the crime of DUI.
  • Not Guilty: You tell the court you did not commit the crime you’ve been charged with.

Legal Representation 

Before you enter any sort of plea (whether guilty or not guilty), you should seek legal representation to aid in your defense.

You can either hire a private attorney for your defense or ask the court to appoint a public defender if you cannot afford to hire one.

Benefits of a Private DUI Attorney
  • Extra Attention to Your Case: A private DUI attorney can provide dedicated attention, spending extra time evaluating and preparing your case.
  • Experience and expertise: Private DUI attorneys, though not burdened by huge caseloads, often have prior experience as a public defender or a prosecutor. In this way, they can provide both trial expertise and special focus on your case.
  • Reduced charges: A private DUI attorney can discredit or suppress crucial evidence, weakening the prosecution’s case. This can improve plea negotiation chances, potentially helping you retain your license and keeping a DUI conviction off your record.
  • They can represent you at the DMV hearing: Within a week of the DMV providing you notice of a license suspension/revocation, you must ask for a DMV hearing. This administrative trial, sometimes called “an express consent hearing,” determines whether the state will suspend your driver’s license. Only a private DUI attorney can represent you in this kind of hearing. A public defender cannot, since it does not involve jail time.
  • You’ll save money: If your private attorney can reduce or dismiss first-time DUI charges, you’ll save on car insurance, court fines, DMV fees, and potential traffic school/treatment expenses.

Discovery is effectively all of the evidence that was collected by the police and prosecution in a criminal defense case. This can include, without limitation:

  • Police reports;
  • Body cam;
  • Pictures and/or video;
  • 911 calls;
  • Written statements;
  • Expert reports;
  • Test reports; and
  • Physical evidence.

Absent special circumstances, the prosecution must provide all evidence collected in a case to the defense.  The general aim of this rule is to prevent surprises, enhance court efficiency, and ensure fair, accurate outcomes in trials.

The discovery process in a DUI case differs for defense and prosecuting attorneys, Each side has its goals.

Prosecuting attorneys aim to prove that you, the defendant, are guilty of DUI. They will look for evidence to support this claim during discovery.

Defense lawyers, on the other hand, use discovery to find evidence that disproves DUI charges. They analyze the case to establish your innocence or identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. These deficiencies could include improper procedures during arrest, mishandled breathalyzer devices, or incorrect blood test standards.

Discovery is both sides requesting evidence that supports either your guilt or innocence.

Plea Bargaining 

Plea bargaining is one way to lessen the harshness of penalties that come with a DUI conviction. Most DUI cases are settled through plea bargaining.

It involves the defendant pleading guilty, or no contest, to a lesser offense in exchange for a reduced sentence.

With a plea bargain, you give up a jury trial and any chance of complete exoneration. Sometimes, it allows reducing DUI charges to offenses like reckless driving, offering a way to avoid harsh DUI penalties.

Trial and Verdict 

If a deal cannot be reached through plea bargaining, the case moves to trial.

As a defendant in a DUI case, you have the right to a trial. It can be held before a jury or a single judge. A trial before a judge is called a bench trial.

Depending on the specifics of your case, either a jury or bench trial could be more advantageous. This is a discussion to have with your DUI attorney.

Either the judge or jury will find you guilty or not guilty.

If you are found guilty of DUI, then your case will proceed to sentencing. If you are found not guilty, then, at last, the ordeal is over.

Phase 4: Sentencing and Penalties 

Penalties for DUI depend on the offense’s severity and your prior record. Listing all outcomes is impractical, so I’ll address criminal and administrative penalties.

DUI Sentencing

For a first-time DUI offense, the criminal penalties are:

  • From five days to one year days in jail
  • Between $600 and $1,000 in fines, plus court costs

The administrative penalties are:

  • Up to nine months license suspension
  • 48 to 96 hours of public service
  • Up to eight months of required usage of an ignition interlock device (IID) to start your car

Note: An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer wired to your car’s ignition. You blow into it before starting your car. If your BAC is too high, the device locks your car’s ignition, preventing it from starting.

An IID also requires a costly installation and ongoing monthly fees that the driver must pay.

Second-Time DUI Penalties
  • Jail: ten days to one year
  • Fines: $600 to $1,500, plus court costs
  • License Suspension: one year (if the second conviction is within five years of the first)
  • Public Service: 48 to 120 hours
  • Ignition Interlock Device: two to five years
Third-Time DUI Penalties (5)
  • Jail: 60 days to 1 year
  • Fines: $600 to $1,500, plus court costs
  • License Suspension: indefinite, but you can apply for reinstatement after two years
  • Public Service: 48 to 120 hours
  • Ignition Interlock Device: 2 to 5 years — if/after your license is reinstated


DUI convictions often result in probation. For a first offense in Colorado, probation typically lasts six months to two years. Subsequent offenses can lead to jail time, but extended probation — lasting two to four years — is an option.

Before sentencing, you’ll undergo an evaluation to determine supervision and rehab needs. This may involve therapy, education classes, and regular probation officer visits, although not all probations require such monitoring. DUI probation’s specifics vary but typically include:

  • Suspended driver’s license
  • Regular meetings with a probation officer
  • Fines and fees for court costs and restitution
  • Community service
  • Alcohol or drug treatment program
  • Supervised alcohol/drug testing
  • Strict compliance with local, state, and federal laws
Probation violation 

A probation violation results from not meeting court-ordered conditions. This can include:

  • not reporting to your probation officer,
  • failure to pay fees,
  • drug or alcohol use, or
  • new criminal activity.

Failing to adhere to the terms of your probation can lead to a harsher sentence, including:

  • Extended probation time
  • Additional fines
  • More counseling, treatment, and supervision
  • Longer driver’s license suspension, and
  • Jail time

Phase 5: Post-Conviction Consequences 

The ramifications of a DUI conviction in Colorado go beyond criminal and administrative penalties.

Job Loss: Employers in Colorado can terminate you for a DUI due to “at-will employment” principles, regardless of a specific policy. Court-related absences may also jeopardize your job.

Loss of Professional License: A DUI conviction can jeopardize professional licenses, such as those for lawyers or nurses, particularly if it occurs repeatedly. Governing agencies may choose to suspend or revoke licenses in such cases.

DUI School and Substance Abuse Programs: Many DUI convictions come with court-ordered treatment programs the defendant must attend. You will be required to attend DUI school, or a substance abuse program, or both. Level I Education is much lighter, requiring only 12 hours over a 3-day period. However most post-conviction programs are Level II. This requires anywhere from 21 to 43 weeks of education, therapy, and treatment.

Insurance Consequences 

Insurance providers may deny coverage to drivers with a DUI conviction or significantly raise rates to compensate for the higher risk. In Colorado, a DUI can result in a 53% increase in car insurance premiums for full coverage policies.

On average, drivers convicted of DUI pay $729 more for the same coverage that non-DUI drivers get.

Some insurers refuse to provide coverage to individuals with DUI convictions.

Other Consequences 

Some other DUI Consequences Include:

  • Higher costs for life and health insurance policies
  • Increased scrutiny and limitations on travel and immigration
  • Inability to travel to certain countries, such as Canada
  • Difficulty renting a car
  • Potential denial of naturalization or green card
  • Loss of your business vehicle or the ability to drive it
  • Having your security clearance denied or revoked

Don’t Face Your DUI Charge Alone 

Robinson & Henry’s experienced team of criminal defense attorneys can help you navigate Colorado’s DUI criminal process. Our priority is what’s in your best interest. We can go over the specifics of your case and decide how best to proceed. Act quickly if you’ve received a revocation notice; you have just seven days to request a DMV hearing. Call us at 303-688-0944 for a case assessment.

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