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Repeat DUI offenders could face prison time

Colorado is one of four states without a felony DUI statute. If a Colorado Springs lawmaker has his way, this may change. Representative Mark Waller is sponsoring a bill that would treat a third DUI conviction in seven years (or a fourth DUI in a person's lifetime) as a felony offense that would be punished with three years in state prison.

Currently, DUIs are treated as misdemeanors that can be punished with up to one year in county jail. There is no scale that increases the severity of the punishment after a certain number of DUI convictions.

According to a CBS.com report, Waller explained to the House Judiciary Committee that his bill was important because there is little legislative effort to deter drunk driving, and that the impetus behind his proposal was to create stiffer punishments so that repeat offenders would take court-ordered treatment seriously. (We previously posted on the importance of DUI courts and how treatment of substance abuse issues was the focus, instead of jail time.) However, people continued to treat drunk driving as merely a financial crime, where they essentially pay their fines and soon afterwards, wind up in the same place.

Waller believes that the potential of jail time will convince drunk drivers to seek treatment, or at least think twice about getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. He also explained that for each time a person is caught driving drunk, he or she has probably driven drunk 80 times without being stopped.

The bill would also apply to driving while alcohol impaired (DWAI) charges. The proposal was unanimously supported by the House Judiciary Committee and now heads to the House Appropriations Committee.

Source: Denver.CBSLocal.com, State lawmakers targets repeat DUI offenders, February 22, 2013

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