January 21, 2015

Felony DUI Law Coming to Colorado?

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Last year, Senate Democrats in Colorado killed a bill that would have made repeat DUI offenses a felony offense in Colorado, much to the surprise and chagrin of the proposed law’s supporters. But now a Weld County state representative is trying again, with a new bill that, if passed, would classify a charged driver’s third DUI in seven years as a class 4 felony.  A class 4 felony carries a 2-6 year prison sentence followed by a mandatory 5 year period of parole.  The fine also ranges from $2,000 to $500,000!

The new proposal calls for felony charges in the event that a driver racks up three DUI convictions in a seven-year period, or fourth DUI conviction in a lifetime.  It is important to understand that not all of the offenses have to occur in Colorado.  If the 3rd offense within 7 years or the 4th in a lifetime occurs in Colorado, this new felony law would apply to you, if the law is passed.  Additionally, the bill would require convicted drunk drivers to have their cars installed with ignition interlock devices for a minimum of five years.

“Right now, Colorado is one of the few states that does not have a felony DUI law,” District 63 Representative Lori Saine tells the news source. “Right now, your third DUI is the same as your 10th, the same as your 16th, the same as your 20th and so on.”

Currently the maximum penalty for a 3rd offense in 7 years or a 4th in a lifetime is a minimum mandatory 60 day jail sentence in county jail with a maximum penalty of up to one year in county jail and the offense remains an unclassified misdemeanor.  This also includes a minimum mandatory 2 years of probation with a maximum of 4 years and if you fail to complete probation successfully, there is another one year of county jail hanging over your head and that one year can be imposed on top of the original sentence.  So a driver convicted of a 3rd or subsequent alcohol-related offense in a lifetime does face up to 2 years in jail upon conviction and if they fail to successfully complete probation. 

As Stan Garnett, District Attorney for Boulder County, points out, many drivers convicted of DUI “usually drive impaired dozens of times before they are caught,” and while most convicted drivers may straighten out after the first offense, those who do it repeatedly present “a significant public safety risk.” Saine adds that her constituents have pushed hard for this bill precisely because of so many drivers in Weld County who have accrued DUI arrests in the double digits.  Of course neither Saine nor Garnett have any statistics to support their statements and they fail to point out that this law was killed last year because of that exact reason.  There are no statistics to show that the creation or imposition of a felony DUI law has any impact on preventing or decreasing the number of DUI offenses being committed across the country.

The focus and efforts should be on getting repeat offenders the help and treatment they need to beat their addiction problem, rather than making them felons and clogging up our prison systems with these non-violent offenders.   

If you’ve been accused of driving under the influence, it’s essential to have an expert Colorado DUI lawyer from The Orr Law Firm by your side, to expertly defend you in court and mitigate the prosecution’s case as much as possible.  The penalties as they stand in Colorado today are very tough and can be life-altering for those charged or convicted.  The proposed changes in this bill will change the conversation from misdemeanor offender to felony offender and from jail to prison.  If you have questions about Colorado DUI law


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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