It’s an annual ritual among politicians who want to be perceived as tough on crime: propose harsher sentencing. When it comes to people convicted of driving under the influence, those stricter penalties can too often mean that they don’t get the help they need.
The annual rite is going on right now in Colorado as lawmakers consider a bill to upgrade some DUI violations from misdemeanors to felonies.
The restructuring would mean that the state is focusing on punishment rather than treatments that can help people and reduce dangers on our streets and highways.
Rep. Mark Waller is proposing that after two drunken driving convictions, a person arrested a third time for DUI within a seven-year period would face a felony charge.
A spokesperson for the Colorado Defense Bar says that “…instead of a felony, the resources and what we could be doing is getting these people more rehabilitation and more DUI court.”
Waller says that a felony charge will provide people with incentive to complete alcohol treatment.
Denver’s CBS affiliate notes that the change in law would wind up costing taxpayers an extra $34 million in prison expenses.
It was widely reported last year in the media when Waller proposed virtually identical legislation. That bill eventually died in the state Senate.
Waller is currently running for Colorado Attorney General. On his campaign website, he notes that “a Class 4 felony (for repeat DUI) is needed to enhance public safety.”
Anyone facing the already tough penalties for impaired driving should speak with an attorney experienced in DUI, DWAI and DUID cases.
Source: CBS Denver, “New Bill Would Change Some DUI Offenses To Felonies,” March 18, 2014