Our regular readers know that in recent weeks we have been covering the reintroduction of a bill in the Colorado legislature that would empower prosecutors to charge repeat DUI offenders with felonies. The Aurora Sentinel recently published an editorial opposing the idea.
Editors made it clear in their essay that they don’t want to give a pass to impaired people who drive, but they also made it clear that the idea that putting drunken drivers in prison will lower DUI rates an “intoxicating fable.”
The editorial rightly notes that Colorado is one of only four states where repeat DUI offenses cannot be charged as felonies, adding that drunken driving arrests in both groups (states with felonies and states without felony DUI laws) have fallen at the same rate over the years. It is simply not true that those states with the felony laws have fewer DUI drivers, the editorial states.
What it is true is that those states that imprison repeat DUI offenders do have enormous incarceration costs to contend with, however. In 2013, the Vera Institute of Justice found that the annual cost to Colorado taxpayers of prison per inmate is $30,374.
The Sentinel’s point is that “sending repeat DUI offenders to prison doesn’t do any good, and it costs taxpayers huge sums of money.”
The newspaper says the “realistic solution” is to force repeat offenders into treatment, mandate regular testing and require ignition interlock systems on their vehicles. It notes, too, that these measures shift costs onto offenders rather than on to taxpayers.