Drunk driving laws are complicated. More than that, the penalties are severe. In 2015, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill creating a felony-level charge for fourth DUI offenses. Prior to this bill being signed, it was possible for a driver to get anywhere from 3 to 10 DUI convictions without facing anything more severe than a misdemeanor on their record and one year in jail. That means a person convicted of DUI would only receive at most one year in jail. Without the bill, Colorado was one of the four remaining states that didn’t have a similar felony law in place. Under the new law, it will make fourth DUI offenses subject to a class four-felony-level conviction—including up to six years in state prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
Push for Stricter Laws Leads to Costly Expenses
According to statistics, there are more than 24,000 impaired driving cases every year in Colorado. One of the main groups pushing for this new change was victims of DUI accidents. While many believe this measure is necessary, it is also likely to be very costly. Keeping individuals in state prison can be expensive. Opponents of the bill believe that the money would be more effectively spent on improving alcohol treatment options to help offenders recover and prevent future incidents.
Governor Hickenlooper is hopeful that the law will simply discourage repeat offenders from reaching their fourth offense. The bill has been heavily debated for numerous years. State lawmakers have expended extensive amounts of time and energy discussing the details and working to reach an agreement.
What You Should Know About the Law
As a resident of Colorado, there are several things you should know about the new DUI felony law.
The following are the key points to keep in mind:
- Prison under the felony isn’t required—judges can use their discretion to create a punishment within the new bill that they believe is more suitable for the specific offender.
- The offenses don’t all have to be in Colorado—Offenses that a person was convicted of in another state can be counted against them. Prior convictions of DUI, DWAI, vehicular homicide, and even vehicular assault can also be counted against a person.
- Taxpayers will be eating the cost—Keeping inmates in prison can be expensive. Estimates put numbers for the first year at around 117 new inmates, which leads to a cost of about $2.6 million. By year three, the estimated costs shoot up to $9.4 million.
- Measures will be added to prevent a fourth strike—In order to help repeat offenders avoid slipping into a fourth offense, the law will require an ignition interlock device in many cases and encourage addiction treatment for certain offenders.
The bill was signed into official law just this past August. In that time, prosecutors around the state have reportedly already charged more than two dozen individuals under the new law. Several of those individuals facing felony convictions were from Denver, with a few others coming from Jefferson, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties.
Arrested for DUI in Denver, Colorado?
As you can tell, prosecutors didn’t hesitate to start bringing charges under the fourth strike felony law. If you or a loved one was arrested for DUI in Denver or the surrounding areas, you need a proven defense attorney on your side. You need Attorney Richard B. Huttner. As a Denver DUI lawyer, he has the experience, background, and legal strategies to help safeguard your future.