In August 2015, Colorado enacted a new law making a person’s fourth DUI conviction a felony. A fourth DUI conviction could have consequences of up to six years’ incarceration and up to a $500,000 fine. Proponents of the bill sought to increase penalties on repeat offenders and to bring Colorado’s drunk driving laws in line with other states with felony DUI laws. It has been over a year – has the felony DUI law actually increased the number of DUI offenders who go to jail?
The Denver Post sought to answer this question, so they reviewed the cases of 316 felony DUI offenses that occurred over the course of the last year. As it turns out, nearly two-thirds of felony DUI offenders are able to avoid prison time. The punishments given to felony DUI offenders ranged from straight jail sentences to jail work-release programs and, in a few cases, simple probation and even just house arrest.
Why Isn’t There Mandatory Jail Time for Felony DUI Offenders?
Mandatory prison time was considered when the bill was proposed back in August 2015. In the spirit of compromise, however, supporters of the bill gave up mandatory prison sentences to quell objections that a felony DUI law would be too expensive to implement, as well as too harsh of a punishment.
As defense attorneys, we disagree with the entire concept of mandatory minimum sentencing. The whole point of having a judge and jury—a right of a criminal defendant—is to look at the facts of each case and make determinations of guilt and tDUI enforcement has been increased once more as part of Colorado’s “The Heat Is On” campaign. This latest enforcement period comes on the heels of the St. Patrick’s Day rush, which ended with over 400 suspected DUI arrests statewide.
The Spring Events enforcement period will last approximately six weeks, stretching from April 4, 2015 to May 17, 2015. This long coverage is meant to enforce DUI restrictions for a variety of events commonly held during the warm season: college graduations, sporting events and, of course, various Spring Breaks. During last year’s Spring Events period, there were over 1,800 DUI arrests.
As you celebrate the spring, you are likely to find “The Heat Is On” ads in places where people would typically partake of drugs and alcohol – festivals, sporting events, restaurants, concerts and bars, for example.
Does the Spring Season Make the Roads More Dangerous?
Colonel Scott Hernandez of the Colorado State Patrol mentions an increase in driver speed and trip length coinciding with the beginning of spring. With more people on the roads driving at faster speeds, impaired drivers have an increased risk of causing or being involved in an accident.
Enforcement can take the form of sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and increased police presence on the roads. If you do happen to catch the attention of law enforcement while you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the smart thing to do would be to contact an experienced DUI attorney. If you’d like to know more about Colorado DUIs, check out our list of resources.
DUI Matters – Denver Drunk Driving Lawyershen sentence the person accordingly. When legislatures pass mandatory minimum sentencing, they are taking this right away from criminal defendants and the obligations of the judge and jury to make factual determinations based on the unique circumstances of each case. This might include mitigating factors mandatory minimum sentencing does not take into account. Bottom line: Who should determine criminal sentences? A legislature passing sweeping laws before a crime is even committed without knowing anything about the individual cases, or a judge and jury that has heard all the facts and evidence from the specific incident at hand and who heard arguments from both sides? The individual circumstances of each case are important – like this one we handled not long ago.
Expect to see this issue arise as we come closer to the next legislative session, where supporters of mandatory minimums will likely push to amend the law further.
Our Denver DUI attorneys serve clients charged with felony DUI throughout Colorado.