A decade ago, a Colorado man was apparently drunk, drove off of an Arapahoe County road and into a ditch where he hit a traffic sign. He was arrested for DUI, and then a year later, he was arrested again for DUI. That time, he was found asleep in his car just a few feet from his house.
A jury convicted him of attempted reckless manslaughter and attempted second-degree assault in the two incidents, and he served time in prison. But the Colorado Court of Appeals recently reversed the convictions, saying there were no victims in the cases.
The prosecutor condemns the decision, calling it “outrageous.” He says even though no one was injured, no one was killed and no one was harmed, the drunken driver posed an elevated risk to other motorists; a risk that is essentially the equivalent of actually harming people.
The 45-year-old driver in question had been arrested six times for alcohol-related incidents prior to 2001, according to a news report.
While drunken driving is universally condemned and in all states illegal, there are a number of people who would argue that we should not incarcerate offenders who have hurt no one as if they are violent criminals. Many people agree that offenders should instead receive intensive substance abuse treatment and have limited freedom, including restricted access to driving vehicles equipped with interlock ignition devices.
It remains to be seen if the Colorado Supreme Court will hear the case presented by the man’s criminal defense attorney.