Proposed Colorado legislation would make third DUI a felony
Colorado is one of a handful of states that does not treat DUI as a felony
A bill under consideration by Colorado lawmakers could bring big changes to the state’s DUI laws. According to the Longmont Times-Call, the bill would make a third DUI offense a felony in the state as well as increase penalties for current DUI offenses. While the proposed legislation has some bipartisan support, it is proving controversial. Critics say making DUI a felony charge will cost tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and may not even be the best way of bringing down drunk driving rates.
House Bill 1043, which was recently introduced in the Colorado General Assembly, would make a third DUI arrest within a seven-year time frame a felony offense. A fourth DUI arrest would be considered a felony regardless of the time frame. The bill also expands the use of ignition interlock devices for DUI offenders.
Currently, multiple DUI offenses are considered misdemeanors in Colorado and the state is one of only a few that does not have a felony DUI law, according to 9 News. However, under the current law prosecutors are able to charge people with a felony DUI if they attach the DUI charge to a habitual traffic offender (HTO) charge. An HTO charge is currently the lowest-level felony charge.
Bill is controversial
Not everybody, however, supports the DUI felony bill and previous versions of the proposal have failed in the past. The cost alone would be about 20 to 30 million dollars, meaning funds that could have gone to programs like education or health care will instead be put towards corrections. Making DUI a felony charge will likely lead to higher incarceration rates, which would prove a greater burden on taxpayers.
Furthermore, even among lawmakers who support the bill there is acknowledgment that the proposal may not do enough to address the problem of drunk driving. By focusing on incarceration, the state may be able to keep some drunk drivers off the road, but it will have failed to address the root causes that lead to drunk driving in the first place. Supporting treatment and prevention programs, instead of increasing punishments, may be a better way of dealing with drunk driving in the long term.
Being charged with a DUI is serious and could be set to become a lot more serious if the above bill becomes law. Anybody currently facing a DUI charge needs to reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. The right attorney can help his client defend not only his or her rights, but reputation and livelihood as well when faced with a the frightening prospect of a DUI charge.