Though the bill passed the Colorado House with little opposition, it failed to even reach the floor of the state Senate for debate. Denver’s Sen. Mike Johnston said the felony DUI bill he co-sponsored died due to “shenanigans” in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which voted the measure down yesterday morning.
The bill had previously made it through the House on a 56 to 6 vote, with bipartisan support.
A senator told a Denver TV station that the bill had become “too politicized and it felt like we were rushing it through at the end of the session.”
However, proponents of the proposal noted that the measure to increase punishment for repeat DUI offenders was submitted back in January. The bill would have enabled prosecutors to charge anyone accused a third time of DUI in any seven-year period to with a Class 4 felony punishable by up to six years in state prison.
Also eligible to be charged with a felony: those drivers who received a fourth DUI at any point in their lives.
As we have noted in this space before, Colorado is one of only four remaining states that does not charge repeat DUI offenders with felonies.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that Sen. Pat Steadman, also of Denver, said he weighed in against the proposal because if it became law, it would mean millions in additional prison costs for the state, despite the fact that there is no proof that it would lower the numbers of drunken drivers.
He added, “People who have repeat DUI offenses, the majority of those people suffer from alcoholism and addiction and that is a disease that I don’t think prison is necessary to treat that.”
Source: Fox Denver, “Senate committee kills bill to toughen repeat DUI offender law,” Eli Stokois, May 6, 2014