Colorado lawmakers look to toughen DUI penalties

Legislators plan a renewed push to make multiple DUIs a felony offense

State lawmakers say that they will introduce a bill in the Colorado Legislature in January that would make some multiple DUI offenses a felony, according to KUSA News. Although similar efforts have been made in the past, supporters of the bill say they now have the bipartisan support needed to pass the proposal into law. Currently, a DUI can only be charged as a felony in Colorado under very specific circumstances.

DUI not a felony

In Colorado, a DUI is not classified as a felony, meaning the maximum sentence for a DUI offence is currently a year in jail and, generally, multiple offenses do not result in an increase in the maximum jail time. Colorado, along with Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., is one of the few states that does not have a DUI felony charge.

A few exceptions do exist for charging people with a felony for drunk driving, however. If a DUI accident leads to injury or death, for example, then a felony charge could result. In addition, a driver may be charged with a DUI felony if they are deemed a habitual traffic offender (HTO), which results in a lower felony charge with usually a year to a year-and-a-half in prison.

Tougher penalties proposed

Some lawmakers are working to bring in stiffer DUI penalties to Colorado. An effort in the state legislature earlier this year to classify some DUI offences as felonies was defeated after lawmakers expressed concerns that the proposal was being rushed through, according to KDVR News. Critics also said there was little evidence backing up the claim that tougher sentences would result in safer roads and highways.

One lawmaker, however, says she plans on introducing another felony DUI bill during the next legislative session in January. The bill would make it a felony to receive three consecutive DUI convictions within five years, or four in a lifetime. She says that there is currently broader political support for such a bill than there has been in the past.

Defending against a DUI charge

As the above article shows, authorities throughout Colorado are cracking down on drunk driving and penalties for people convicted of a DUI could soon be getting a lot tougher. Although most DUIs in Colorado are not charged as felonies, they can still carry severe consequences, including jail time and license suspensions.

Anybody who is facing a DUI charge should not take such a charge lightly. A criminal defense attorney should be contacted as soon as possible to discuss the case. Such an attorney can help clients understand what legal rights they have and what their options may be in defending themselves against a DUI charge.