blog DUI Can You Get a DUI for an Accident That Wasn’t Your Fault?

Can You Get a DUI for an Accident That Wasn’t Your Fault?

By Colorado Attorney-at-law on February 10, 2023

If you are involved in a traffic accident in Colorado and you are over the BAC legal limit, you may be charged with a DUI – even if it’s later determined that your actions were not directly responsible for the accident.

In addition to criminal DUI charges, you may also be facing civil charges when you test positive for alcohol after an automobile accident. If someone who was harmed in an accident chooses to file a personal injury lawsuit against you, your level of alcohol consumption will be an important factor in determining liability – even if you did not violate any traffic laws.

Legal Consequences for Driving While Intoxicated in CO

If no one is injured in an automobile collision, the police may not show up at the scene. In these cases, drivers are legally required to share contact and insurance information. But police officers will probably arrive at the scene of an accident when someone was injured.

A police officer may ask a driver to take a roadside field sobriety test, but you are allowed to refuse this request in Colorado.

If the officer has probable cause to believe that a driver who was involved in an accident has been drinking, the driver may be arrested and required to take a blood alcohol test. Slurred speech, red eyes, unusual behavior, and difficulty maintaining your balance are all signs that someone is intoxicated.

Refusal to submit to a BAC test is a violation of Colorado’s express consent law, and it carries significant consequences, including:

  • An automatic one-year driver’s license suspension
  • Designation as a “persistent drunk driver”
  • A mandatory drug and alcohol treatment program
  • Mandatory SR-22 automobile insurance
  • After your license is reinstated, an ignition interlock device will be required on your vehicle for one year.

A person may be convicted of drunk driving in Colorado if their BAC is greater than .08. Depending on how many previous offenses the driver has, conviction of drunk driving carries a penalty of to 24 months behind bars.

Conviction of DUI with injuries carries a prison sentence of up to 6 years and fines up to $500,000.

Civil Liability in DUI Accident Cases

A personal injury lawsuit is completely separate from any criminal prosecution that a driver may be facing for a motor vehicle crash that involves alcohol. And being under the influence of alcohol may be sufficient to find a driver liable for damages.

People have a duty of care to avoid reckless behavior that may harm others. A person’s duty of care is automatically breached by drunk driving, which impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that says a person is negligent for harm they commit while violating a law that’s designed to protect others. A person who is driving with a BAC of .08 or higher in Colorado will be found legally negligent per se in almost all cases.

To prove liability in a case where an intoxicated driver did not violate any traffic laws, the plaintiff’s lawyer will have to demonstrate that the intoxicated driver would have been able to avoid the accident if they had been sober.

According to Colorado’s modified comparative fault laws, someone who is injured in an accident may recover monetary damages from anyone whose negligence contributed to their injures. But a plaintiff cannot recover damages if it’s determined that the plaintiff is more than 50 percent at-fault for the accident.

Were You Charged with Drunk Driving?

Criminal prosecution for drunk driving can have devastating consequences. In addition to the jail time you may serve, it could negatively impact the following areas of your life:

  • Gun rights
  • Immigration status
  • Custody disputes
  • Your professional license
  • Eligibility for public housing

The skilled Breckenridge DUI defense lawyers at Whitaker & Penix, LLC have extensive experience working in the Colorado criminal court system. We’ll find the best strategy to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

Our partner Kylie L. Whitaker has been included in the list of Colorado Rising Stars by Super Lawyers, a rating service that recognizes lawyers who have attained significant professional achievement and peer recognition. We also belong to the Better Business Bureau.

Call (970) 368-0602 to schedule a FREE consultation today.

Posted in: DUI