When Colorado passed legislation in June 2015 to make a 4th or subsequent DUI conviction a felony offense, the intent was to impose a harsher punishment on habitual drunk drivers. Many Colorado prosecutors are now saying that this new law was a “step backward,” however, as many individuals convicted of felony DUI are not serving any jail time.
Politics Shaped The Bill
As reported by the Denver Post, similar legislation was put forth for nearly five years before this bill was finally signed into law. Although 45 other states already had felony DUI laws on the books, critics argued that this bill would dramatically increase expenses for the prison and judicial systems, and would not help make our roads safer. Others complained that the bill does not do enough to help rehabilitate people with substance abuse issues.
To get the law passed, concessions were made. The initial version of the bill would have mandated a felony charge for especially heinous third-time offenses; the version that passed only imposes a felony charge for a fourth or subsequent offense. Furthermore, the new version of the bill does not carry any mandatory jail time, leaving the punishment for a conviction in the hands of the judge.
One in Twelve
Per the Denver Post, roughly one out of every twelve individuals convicted of a felony DUI under the new law are not serving any jail time. These cases typically result in community service or probation; others prosecuted for this offense, however, are serving 6 or more years behind bars. The judge presiding over the case has a massive amount of discretion when sentencing – in fact, the new law tells judges to only impose prison time if they “determine that incarceration is the most suitable option given the facts and circumstances of the case, including the defendant’s willingness to participate in treatment.”
How Will This Impact You?
Many lawmakers are pushing to impose mandatory jail time in the next legislative session (including the prime sponsor of the bill, Republican Representative Lori Saine). In the meantime, however, it is more important than ever to hire an experienced Colorado DUI attorney if you’re facing charges. With the wide range of potential sentences you may be facing, your choice in representation can mean the difference between moving forward with your life, or spending the next few years behind bars.
At Orr Law Firm, Colorado’s Premier DUI defense firm, our Denver DUI lawyers have the experience and record of success you need on your side. We fight tirelessly for our clients, helping them protect their careers, their personal lives, and often their freedom. Learn how we can help you in a free initial consultation.