House Minority Leader, State Rep. Mark Waller, has introduced HB 13-1214, which would increase the classification of certain repeat drunk driving offenses from misdemeanors to felonies. Although Colorado punishes repeat offenders more severely, it is currently one of only five states that does not have a “repeated-DUI” felony law.
The current text of the HB 13-1214 goes even further than legislation in many other states since it classifies the lesser offense of driving while ability impaired (DWAI) as a DUI offense for purposes of the repeat offender bill.
Under the proposed legislation, a person is subject to the penalty provisions for a class 5 felony if he or she is convicted of a fourth DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI offense at any point in his or her lifetime, or if they are convicted of any three such offenses within a period of seven years. Class 5 felonies currently carry a presumptive range of 1 to 3 years to the Colorado Department of Corrections, followed by a two year period of mandatory parole. See C.R.S. section 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(IV). Upon a finding of extraordinary aggravating circumstances, the range can be doubled.
Similar proposals have been rejected by the legislature in the past due to prison overcrowding, budget constraints, and the relative expense of extended incarceration. Rep. Waller has indicated that, at least this year, due to a reduction in Colorado’s current prison population, no new prisons would have to be built to house the expected influx of repeat-DUI inmates.