Written by attorney Michael Jermaine Carter

Colorado DUI 101: An Overview of Colorado Drunk Driving Process

Stage 1 – The Arrest Stage

The First questions people have is "If I am pulled over and charged with a DUI will I go to jail?" You do not have to be booked into jail, kept overnight or post bond to be arrested. The officer has the authority and discretion on whether or not to book you, send you to a detox facility, or allow someone to come and pick you up. This is where being polite and respectful to the officer can be beneficial. The officer can determine whether or not to tow your vehicle and send you to detox. Retrieving your vehicle from the impound lot and paying for a couple hours at detox can run several hundred dollars each. Be respectful and courteous to the officer, but remember that there is a difference between being polite and incriminating yourself.

Stage 2 – The Express Consent Hearing

If you refused testing or submitted to a breath test, you only have seven (7) days from the date of arrest to request your Express Consent hearing at the DMV. You must do this immediately. Do not wait until the last day to request your hearing. For information on how to request an Express Consent hearing, visit Upon requesting your Express Consent hearing, the DMV will send you a letter called the Notice of Hearing. This hearing must originally be set within sixty (60) days of when you request the Express Consent hearing.

Stage 3 – Arraignment

The officer should issue you a citation or Uniform Summons and Complaint that clearly identifies the time, date and location of a mandatory court appearance. This date is called an arraignment date. The judge or a magistrate will officially advise you of the pending charges against you and the possible penalties associated with each charge. This is the first of many court dates in the "DUI process." If you fail to appear for this date or any others, the judge will order a Failure to Appear Warrant in your name. When you hire an attorney and your attorney properly advises you of the charges and penalties, this date can oftentimes be vacated. You should consult with your attorney on the status of your arraignment date and whether or not it has been vacated.

Stage 4 – Pre-Trial Conferences

Pre-trial conferences are scheduled court appearances where we will go to court and meet with the district attorney to discuss the facts of your case, discovery needs and negotiate plea offers. There are generally two to four pre-trial conferences; however, each case and fact pattern is unique. This stage is the "negotiation" stage and the stage in which we ensure that all relevant discovery and case information has been provided to us from the District Attorney's Office.

Stage 5 – Motions

Motions hearings are the legal arguments made to the judge. This is where the defense attorney and district attorney argue case law and a variety of different motions. We refer to this as the legal argument stage. This stage comes after motions have been filed with the court. This is the stage in which those motions are orally argued and the judge makes a determination on what evidence, if any, is going to be suppressed. The judge's decision is always made in the light most favorable to the prosecution.

Stage 6 – Jury Trial

Unfortunately, most defense attorneys have very little experience in this stage. Jury trial is where your case is presented to a jury of your peers and they make a determination of your guilt. Misdemeanor DUI jury trials consist of six jury members. The process of selecting the jury is called voir dire. Jury trials are usually two days or more.

Stage 7 – Sentencing

All cases that do not end up in a complete dismissal will be required to go to sentencing. Sentencing is the stage in which your punishment is assigned. The judge will take into consideration all mitigating factors presented by the defense as well as the recommendations of the district attorney and the probation office.

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