Push for Mandatory Prison In Colorado Vehicular Assault Cases

On January 17, 2014, House Bill 14-1158 was introduced in the Colorado Legislature by State Representative Polly Lawrence and co-sponsored by State Senator Steven King.

Under current law, a person can be convicted of vehicular assault or vehicular homicide by proving either that the driver was engaged in reckless or certain types of grossly negligent behavior or that the driver was alcohol-impaired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the injury or death was caused.  Vehicular assault is a class 5 felony and vehicular homicide is a class 3 felony.

This bill would require the imposition of a mandatory prison term in any case where the driver was found guilty under the drug or alcohol provisions. In addition, the defendant would not be eligible for probation or a suspended sentence.

If passed into law, the bill would mean that anyone convicted of a vehicular assault involving a DUI, DWAI or DUID would be sentenced to at least two years in prison, while persons convicted of a vehicular homicide, under the same circumstances, would be sentenced to at least four years in prison, with no exceptions, regardless of what the district attorney or judge would otherwise prefer.

Mandatory sentencing enhancers are generally popular with legislators, even though they remove discretion from the judicial system, and there is a good chance that this law will pass and take effect on its target date, July 1, 2014.

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