A new bill that would increase the penalties for multiple-offense DUIs has advanced in the Colorado House. Legislators in the state passed the bill through the Appropriations Committee, which means it is on its way to being considered by the entire body of lawmakers. A representative from Colorado Springs, Mark Waller, is sponsoring the bill. Although he said the move was a positive step forward, he stressed the fact that the repeat offender law is still not close to being improved or implemented.
At this time, drivers in Colorado only face misdemeanor charges for drunk driving; there is no type of felony charge for DUI. If the new bill passes, however, repeat offenders could face a Class 4 felony offense if they receive three DUI convictions during a period of seven years. The felony counts would also apply to those who are convicted four times during their life.
Some lawmakers think the penalty is too harsh. Class 4 felonies generally carry sentences of two to six years. Some legislators think that the Class 5 distinction might be more appropriate. Drivers convicted under that type of statute could end up spending less than a year behind bars, depending on the legal maneuvers of their criminal defense attorney. Attorneys would ostensibly still be able to negotiate plea bargains under the proposed mandate, which can sometimes result in positive alternatives for criminal defendants.
Although most legislators agree that public policy does need to address repeat DUI offenders, they are having a difficult time concurring about the details of the new punishment. Many want to protect criminal defendants from punishment that does not fit the nature of their crimes. Further, the measure would cost about $27 million to implement, according to House Democrats. More discussion is sure to come on this issue.
Source: Brush News-Tribune, “Felony DUI bill advances in Colorado House” Anthony Cotton, Apr. 10, 2014