Felony DUI Law Dies in Colorado Senate

Colorado is one of only 6 states that do not have a felony DUI law. Currently, a DUI conviction is only a misdemeanor, no matter how many prior DUI’s you have on your record. The other states that do not have a felony DUI law are Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. (Unless serious injury or death is involved.)

Colorado Representative Mark Waller of Colorado Springs was hoping to change that with proposed House Bill 1214. The proposed legislation intended to increase the classification for a 3rd DUI within 7 years or a 4th DUI in a lifetime from a class 1 traffic misdemeanor to a class 5 felony. The maximum possible penalties would be up to 3 years in the Department of Corrections, or up to six years with aggravating circumstances. The current maximum sentence is up to one year in the county jail.

In addition to the penalty of increased jail time, the bill proposed mandatory probation, installation of an ignition interlock device in your car, and regular alcohol monitoring to ensure abstinence. The goal with this bill was to act as a deterrent to those drivers who have previously been arrested for DUI. Waller believed that the risk of a felony conviction on a criminal record would be a significant deterrent to driving under the influence.

The proposed legislation was passed in the House on April 19, 2013. On April 22, 2013, the bill was introduced in the Senate. It was postponed indefinitely by the Senate Finance Committee on May 7, 2013. John Morse, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate stated that he was unable to obtain the needed votes to pass the bill. Rather than bring the bill to a vote, it was postponed indefinitely. As the legislative session ended May 8, 2013, the bill cannot be heard this term. It is likely that a similar bill will be raised in the 2014 legislative session.

For now, a Colorado DUI, whether it’s your first, fourth, or eighth is only a misdemeanor. For a first offense, there is no mandatory jail time unless your BAC is .200 or greater. On a second offense within 5 years, there is a mandatory minimum 10 day jail sentence, with a maximum penalty up to 1 year in jail. For a 3rd or subsequent offense, there is a mandatory minimum 60 day jail sentence, with up to a year in jail as a maximum sentence.

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