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Proposed legislation making repeat DUI a felony

Lawmakers in Colorado are in the process of creating a bill creating felony charges for individuals charged with repeat DUI. Since misdemeanor punishments result in shorter sentences, the obvious intent is to come down harder on individuals facing multiple DUI convictions.

One recent Arapahoe County case drew attention because the defendant had 16 DUI convictions. According to proponents of such a law, individuals such as this defendant would be required to take the law more seriously if it led to a felony.

One DUI attorney opposes such an idea, however, because it would be a bad use of state resources. "We're taking $17.5 million dollars and we're just funneling it into prison and felonies, and we're not doing anything to get people help," this attorney stated. (Note: the actual cost of the initial bill would apparently be $13.4 million during the third year of implementation. Expected changes to the bill may reduce this to $8 million.)

This attorney also argued that directing state funds towards treatment programs would go further towards preventing future DUIs. Successful treatment programs would prevent second and third DUIs from occurring. Proponents of such a bill claim that Colorado is one of the few states not to have such a law in place. Also, they counter that individuals who are on their fourth or fifth DUI have indicated they are not concerned about treatment.

The merits of this bill may be beside the point. What is important is that this bill has a serious chance of becoming law. It appears to be a high priority among politicians - probably because most politicians are hesitant to appear too lenient towards DUI offenders. This means that we can continually expect for penalties involving DUIs to increase.

Source: 9News, "Balance of Power: Time to pass felony DUI?" Brandon Rittiman, March 22, 2015

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