Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

Call to Action: It’s Summertime. Relax and Unwind…Responsibly

Deputy Regulation Counsel, Intake Division, Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel


As you enjoy summertime in Colorado, and hopefully have the chance to connect with friends and family, be mindful of an issue that rarely arises in the practice of law, but may have consequences for your law license: drinking and driving.

In many cases, when a lawyer has a DWAI or DUI conviction, the lawyer misjudged their level of intoxication before driving. In other circumstances, the conviction is a sign of a broader substance use disorder. The following describes a lawyer’s obligations if there is a drinking and driving conviction, as well as what the lawyer can expect in the regulation process.

Duty to report. A lawyer has a duty to self-report a conviction, including traffic offenses involving alcohol or drugs, to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel (“OARC”) within 14 days of the conviction. See C.R.C.P. 251.20 Attorney Convicted of A Crime.

A conviction is defined as “any ultimate finding of fact in a criminal proceeding that an individual is guilty of a crime, whether the judgment rests on a verdict of guilty, a plea of guilty, or a plea of nolo contendere, and irrespective of whether entry of judgment or imposition of sentence is suspended or deferred by the court.” See C.R.C.P. 251.20(h).

Because this can be a source of confusion, it bears repeating: lawyers are obligated to report convictions (not arrests), and in the regulation process, convictions include deferred judgments. Timely self-reporting is important, as the failure to do so may have additional disciplinary consequences.

Investigation following the self-report. Once OARC receives the self-report, we will review the related criminal file and ask the lawyer to explain the circumstances. Depending on the lawyer’s blood alcohol level, the severity of the incident and whether this is the lawyer’s first alcohol-related conviction, the lawyer may be asked to submit to an independent medical evaluation (IME). The IME assists OARC and the lawyer in understanding whether the lawyer suffers from a substance use disorder, and if so, what recommendations would assist the lawyer.

Provided the lawyer timely self-reports the conviction, OARC will generally analyze the conviction pursuant to Colo. RPC 8.4(b)(it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s honestly, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law).  When possible, OARC endeavors to resolve these convictions through alternatives to discipline pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.13. A diversion agreement is a confidential resolution that is not discipline, and permits the lawyer to continue practicing subject to conditions of supervision by OARC. If the matter cannot be resolved through a diversion at the intake division, it will be processed to the trial division for further investigation and resolution. As with all investigations, it is important that the lawyer cooperate with the investigation by timely responding to inquiries and providing accurate information. Because OARC cannot give legal advice, should a lawyer need guidance on navigating the regulation process, a lawyer may be represented by counsel at any stage of the process.

Hopefully this article will inspire lawyers to arrange alternate transportation ahead of time to avoid any alcohol-related driving incidents. If there is an arrest and conviction, it’s important to remember the duty to timely self-report.