Northern Colorado Criminal Defense Firm
Available After Hours & Weekends

A History of Drunk Driving Laws

Have you ever wondered where the modern DUI laws originated from? We’ll be going over how the DUI as we know it today came to be. With so many laws against operating machinery while under the influence, you’ve probably wondered where they originated from once or twice. In today’s blog, we’ll dive into the major points in history that were a transitional point for DUI laws. Keep in mind that DUI laws are in place to protect people who are on the road. They originated to ensure that people follow the laws when operating machineries such as a car, boat, and even an airplane. While getting a DUI is not a great experience, when you hire an experienced DUI attorney, you’re able to create a plan that can help you get the outcome you want. At Roselle & Breitigam, P.C., our DUI attorneys can create a personalized approach to your situation.

infographic Hire The Top Notch Attorneys


You might think that DUI laws originated when cars, trains, and planes were invented, but in fact, it wasn’t until 1910 that there were the first traces of law to be instituted against drinking and driving. New York was the first state to create an early form of DUI laws by prohibiting that a person could not drive while intoxicated. New York set an example and a definition of what it means to qualify as driving while intoxicated was implemented. Once New York created the law to prohibit driving under the influence, the other 48 states followed. The early form of a DUI law said that a driver was unable to operate a motor vehicle while he or she is intoxicated. In the early days of DUI laws; however, there wasn’t a clear definition made by the lawmakers and the courts about what inebriation consisted of.

After prohibition was repealed, the Drunkometer was patented by a professor of biochemistry and toxicology at Indiana University. The Drunkometer was able to test the intoxication of a person when they breathed into the balloon-like instrument. It could tell when a person was inebriated because the color of the air would mix with the chemical solution to show the amount of an intoxicated person.

Later on in the 1930s, there were two groups who were issued the task of making the roads in the United States safer. The American Medical Association helped to create a study to determine the frequent situations that lead to motor vehicle accidents. The National Safety Council also set up a study to determine a way to figure out intoxication. The American Medical Association and the National Safety Council did some research to determine the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration. By 1938, the amount was 0.15 percent and was known as the first recurrent legal limit. If a driver has a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher, then they’d be considered inebriated.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s and the early 1980s that the driving and drinking laws became more strict. The reason for this was because of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving. These groups, as well as specific individuals, put pressure on the government to change the DUI laws and to create better stipulations for what it means to drink and drive. For instance, the drinking age was increased from 18 to 21 years of age throughout the U.S. These groups against drunk driving also help to push laws to enforce the police departments to take drunk driving more seriously and make it more of a priority. Until this time, DUIs weren’t that high of a priority. In addition, the legal limit was also affected during this time when part of the change in drinking age encouraged many states to change the legal BAC to .08 percent. In 2000, it was finally adopted by Congress to make the national illegal limit to driving under the influence .08 BAC.


When it comes to Colorado, the drinking laws are a little different. First, we have a DWAI and a DUI. The DWAI is when you blow a BAC between .05 and .08 percent. A DUI is when you are over the legal limit of .08. While blowing between a .05 and a .08 isn’t as bad a DUI, it can still land you in hot water. It should be treated just like a DUI because you could still be looking at fines and even jail time.

In Colorado, if it’s your first offense of driving under the influence, then you can be imprisoned for five days to a year and pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000 in fines and that doesn’t even include DUI attorney fees. You can also be looking at 12 points added to your driving record, a suspended license for 30 days, and if you meet the reinstatement requirements you could be eligible to use the Interlock Restricted License. Lastly, you might be required to go through 48-96 hours of public service. If you get a DWAI, you could be looking at similar consequences even though you weren’t technically over the legal limit.

If you find yourself with a DWAI or a DUI, then don’t hesitate to contact a DUI attorney at Roselle & Breitigam, P.C.