In June 2015, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed a bill to create a felony charge for a fourth drunk driving offense. Prior to this bill getting passed, it was possible to get an unlimited number of DUI convictions in Colorado without more than just incurring a brief stint in jail. Under this new law, a fourth drunk driving conviction would be subject to a felony and punishable up to six years in the pokey and with a penalty of up to a $500,000 fine. DUI charges in Colorado now have much harsher fines and punishments if convicted multiple times.
The governor initiated this bill to discourage repeat DUI offenders from reaching the fourth offense along and to answer the cries of victims of DUI accidents and their family members. According to the governor, alcohol prevention programs and devices on cars often don’t work, and it’s just irresponsible for society to allow those folks to drive on the road. Haggling out the details of the new bill took a lot of work for state lawmakers, but here are a few key points.
The Felony Isn’t Mandatory At first glance, one would think that a felony would be mandatory for a four DUI conviction, but that’s not the case. Judges will still have discretion for punishment and sentencing. The new law requires that the judge must determine that incarceration is appropriate only when there is “unacceptable risk to public safety.” If this is determined, then a felony punishment is mandatory.
Strikes Don’t Add Up Just in Colorado The new law states that DUI offenses anywhere in the United States also count toward the fourth DUI offense. And if a person has three prior convictions for vehicular assault, DWAI or DUI, a simple DUI could become a felony.
The New Law Includes Prevention The language used in the new law encourages the courts to consider alcohol addiction treatment for repeat offenders. Other preventive measures include that offenders get a conditional license and must use an interlock device.
Taxpayers Will Pay The state legislature’s staff projects that 120 people will end up in jail during the first year of the new law, costing taxpayers about $2.6 million. By the third year, it’s projected that 420 folks will be on lock up for repeat DUI offenses, racking up a cost of $9.4 million. Without a doubt, the cost of prison time doesn’t come cheap for taxpayers.
Opponents to the new law feel that the monies would be better spent on more intensive treatment for DUI offenders. Only time will tell.