People who follow changes in Colorado’s criminal law closely know that the state introduced a felony drinking and driving law last summer. The Coloradoan has an update on the effects of the law, which made prison time for DUI a possibility for the first time.
The story reports that hundreds of people have been charged with felony DUI in the approximately nine months it has been on the books. The law makes a fourth DUI charge a felony instead of a misdemeanor, so it seems to particularly target people with an alcohol addiction. If convicted, a defendant faces up to six years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
Obviously, to charge someone as a repeat offender, authorities must know the suspect’s criminal record. This is a challenge for police, because there is no statewide system for looking up a suspect’s history of DUI convictions.
It is too soon to say if the law has made Colorado’s roads safer. What we do know is that the law does not address the underlying issue of alcoholism. As we said in our Aug. 15 post, there are alcohol treatment classes in state prisons, but the system has very limited resources for this service. In one prison, the waiting list for help with alcoholism was nearly 200 names long at the time.
One of the sponsors of the felony DUI law in the Colorado House said that lawmakers would consider more funding for alcoholism treatment in prison in 2016. But some authorities, including the Weld County district attorney, seems to consider treatment a waste of time compared with lengthy prison time for repeat offenders.
The new law makes it more important than ever to have a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney representing you if you are ever arrested.