Felony DUI bill would introduce tougher penalties to Colorado
Critics of bill worry about cost and overcrowding at jails if bill passes
Colorado’s DUI laws are already tough and, if a bill currently under consideration by state lawmakers passes, they could be set to become a lot tougher. According to KKTV 11 News, the bill, which would make some repeat DUI offenses a felony in the state, is gathering support among lawmakers, suggesting it could become law this year. Supporters of the bill contend that making repeat DUI a felony offense would send a message to drivers about the risks of drunk driving, but critics point out that the bill would lead to increased incarceration, may be ineffective at deterring drunk driving, and could prove a drain on resources.
New felony law
As Colorado Public Radio reports, if the bill passes then anybody who is arrested for DUI four times or more would be charged with a felony offense. Additionally, the law also allows for a felony charge against an individual on his or her third DUI arrest if other factors are involved, such as the arrests occurring within the last seven years, a minor being present in the vehicle, or if the accused was involved in an accident and tried to flee the scene.
Although Colorado is one of just five states that doesn’t make DUI a felony but rather a misdemeanor, it is important to realize that a misdemeanor is still a serious offense. Furthermore, under current law people who suffer repeat DUIs do face increasingly harsh sentences, such as increased jail time and higher fines, even if they are not usually charged with a felony.
Waste of money
Critics of the bill raise a number of points about the proposal. First off, they worry that proponents may be overstating the bill’s potential effectiveness at deterring drunk driving. Drunk driving accidents have been declining consistently in recent decades both in Colorado and across the U.S., which suggests that current laws against drunk driving are proving effective.
Critics also point out that the bill would likely lead to more people being jailed for DUI, thus raising concerns about the potential cost of the bill. They claim that while tougher penalties may have a limited effect in discouraging drunk driving, in most cases public education and treatment programs are far more effective at improving highway safety. The cost that the new bill entails, for example, would likely be far better spent of addiction-treatment programs and educational campaigns that deal with the root cause of the problem instead of just treating the symptoms.
Being charged with a DUI can have serious consequences, including restricted driving privileges, steep fines, and jail time. In addition to such punishments, people convicted of a DUI often suffer damage to their reputations, which can prove especially problematic for some business owners. A criminal defense attorney should be contacted as soon as possible when facing such charges. The right attorney can use his experience of the law and the criminal justice system to protect a client’s rights and reputation following any criminal charge.