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Underage DUI in Colorado

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) in Colorado is a serious offense that comes with burdensome administrative penalties. Imagine being caught driving under the influence while still under the legal drinking age? For underage drivers, the penalties are even harsher.  That’s because Colorado is a zero tolerance state. Zero tolerance laws make it illegal to drive with any measureable amount of alcohol in one’s system.

The initial penalty for underage DUI is an automatic driver’s license suspension.  While it is a serious penalty, its effect generally lasts for a short period of time. 

What are the long-term effects of pleading guilty to DUI?  It’s a discussion that all parents should have with their teen drivers on a regular basis. 

DUI convictions can make a parent’s insurance rates skyrocket, and they can create problems for young adults with past convictions, who later attempt to purchase their own car insurance. But, most importantly, a DUI conviction can affect a teenager’s college admissions process or post high school job prospects.


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Teenage Driver Information Center


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Consequences of Underage DUI in Denver

If a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer, blood-test, or urine test, determines that a driver under 21 has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02% or higher, then that driver can be criminally cited for driving under the influence.

Additionally, if an injury or property damage results from an underage driver operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then a civil lawsuit may arise, that could make the parents liable for damages.

The consequences for underage DUI charges in Colorado are based on the number of previous DUI convictions an individual has had.

First Conviction:

If an individual has a BAC between .02% and .05%, then he or she will receive a Class A Traffic Infraction. The consequences of a first-time conviction are as follows:

  • Up to $100 fines;
  • Up to 24 hours community service.

Administrative penalties include an automatic three (3) month license suspension.  Zero tolerance laws in Colorado make the detection of any amount of alcohol in a minor’s system, while driving, an automatic license suspension.

If an alleged offender is found to have a BAC of .05% or higher, then the standard DUI criminal penalties apply.  

If, however, the underage driver causes property damage or serious injury, then he or she will likely face far more serious criminal penalties. In addition, a personal injury lawsuit may arise.

Second Conviction:

If an individual has a BAC between .02% and .05% and it is the second conviction, then he or she will be charged with a Class 2 Traffic Misdemeanor. A second underage DUI conviction is punished as follows:

  • Up to 90 days in jail;
  • Up to $300 fines;
  • Up to 24 hours of community service.

Administrative penalties include an automatic six (6) month license suspension. If the individual has a BAC of .05% or higher, then the standard DUI penalties apply.


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Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in CO

Colorado is one of eight states and the District of Columbia to legalize marijuana for recreational use. It is still illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to consume marijuana. The consequences for a teenager driving under the influence of marijuana are even harsher.

Colorado law specifies that the legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana is five (5) nanograms of active THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in their blood.

The penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana are the same as those for driving under the influence of alcohol under Colorado law.


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Collateral Consequences of Underage DUI

College Admission:

Apart from the criminal and civil consequences that a teenager and his or her parents may face, having a DUI conviction can seriously affect a person’s ability to get into college. Many colleges and universities run background checks on applicants, not just to determine character, but also to make housing considerations. Moreover, many apartments in college towns will not rent to individuals with a criminal history.

While it is not impossible to get into college with a criminal conviction, it becomes substantially more difficult. Having a criminal conviction could even prevent an individual from receiving financial aid. Currently, the federal government, the largest provider of financial assistance for secondary education, does not offer financial aid in the form of grants and loans, to individuals with a criminal conviction.

In addition, there are many professions that perform background checks that ultimately serve as a barrier to individuals with criminal convictions. For example, lawyers must past character and fitness to become an attorney. Having a criminal conviction, will make that process a bit more worrisome than it would have been.

Insurance Consequences:

For parents with their teenage children on their insurance plans, it is important to understand that many insurance companies will drop your insurance if you or your child obtains a DUI conviction.

Moreover, when an individual attempts to purchase his or her own insurance, he or she may run into problems finding affordable insurance. Most insurance companies check an applicant’s driving record before approving an insurance plan. If a company finds that a person has a drunk driving history, it may deny coverage or charged extremely high premiums.


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Additional Resources

Class A Traffic Infractions – Visit the official website of the State of Colorado for a full list of the penalties associated with each type of traffic offense that is charged as a Class A traffic infraction. The page includes the definitions of the criminal act, as well as the penalties.

No Colorado DUI – Visit No Dui Colorado, a website created by the Persistent Drunk Driver Committee (PDD) to be a resource on impaired driving and substance abuse behavior regarding drunk driving laws for the Colorado community. 


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Attorney in Denver Explains Underage Drunk Driving

If you are a parent of a teenager, it is imperative that you talk with your kids about the dangers of drunk driving. Not only can a person be subject to criminal liability, but personal injury attorneys across the state of Colorado sue individuals for injuries sustained as a result drunk driving.  Talk to your teens about these serious consequences regularly and develop a family plan to help ensure that they do not drive under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a drunk driving accident, contact an experienced Denver personal injury attorney.

Law Office of Jennifer L. Donaldson represents clients who have sustained injuries in multiple types of car collisions across Denver.

Call (303)-458-5000 now to learn more about underage drunk driving and the civil consequences of hitting someone while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. 

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