Currently, Colorado is one of five states that does not have a felony charge option for DUIs. In many states, a driver with more than a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI offense or with a BAC of 0.20 or higher can face a felony charge, up to seven years in prison, and a steep fine – and in some states increasingly severe penalties for 1st, 2nd, 3rd or subsequent DUI conviction.
Current law considers a DUI in Colorado a misdemeanor traffic offense, even for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offenses; and Colorado does not set a cap on the number of DUI convictions a person can receive in a lifetime. House Bill 1214 tried to change the law to create a class 5 felony for serial offenders. In April 2013 in Denver, the House of Representatives passed a bill that creates stricter penalties for drunk drivers in Colorado. The bill did not pass and currently, there is no felony DUI law–but it will be here soon. The public outcry and political climate have become increasingly frustrated with current DUI laws in Colorado. Colorado has steep penalties and they are getting tougher.
According to a study by the Denver Post, one in three Colorado drivers arrested for DUI has a previous DUI arrest. Almost 11,000 of the approximately 31,000 drivers arrested yearly for driving under the influence are repeat offenders. A handful of these had at least 20 previous drunk-driving encounters.
Because of this overwhelming increase, Denver police, since 2012, have been increasing their efforts to catch impaired drivers by increasing patrols and setting up checkpoints. The courts are also concerned with the increasing risk to other drivers – up to this point, too many drivers with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offenses are continuing to offend with little long-term impact. A new precedent has been set to make a DUI a harsher crime because it could stay on an offender’s record permanently. With this potential permanency to your driver’s record, it is important to hire legal counsel to help ensure you are aware of all the changes and their potential impact. Good counsel can ensure a much better outcome if charged with a DUI.