After your third DUI, you may have promised yourself and others that you would not make that mistake again. The financial and personal damage you experienced probably lingered for months or even years. Despite all that, you found yourself on the other side of a Breathalyzer looking at a fourth drunk driving charge. While you may have avoided jail time for each of your previous convictions, you may not be so lucky if a judge convicts you on the fourth offense.
Recently, Colorado instituted a new law that opened the possibility that police would charge you with a felony after your third conviction. Even if previous convictions were DUI misdemeanors that involved no injuries or property damage and even if those previous convictions were years before, you still may face a felony charge.
Sentencing felony DUI offenders under Colorado law
The new law specifies that prison should be the last option a judge will consider in DUI cases. When weighing whether to send a repeat offender to jail, some of the factors the judge should consider include:
- Were there aggravating elements to the offense?
- Are there mitigating or aggravating factors in your history?
- Are you willing to receive treatment?
- Has the court tried all other reasonable options?
- Are alternative consequences, such as treatment, likely to have positive results?
- Do you pose a risk to public safety if not incarcerated?
County courts no longer hear felony DUI cases, but instead the cases go to district court.
What many people appreciate about the law is that it allows judges to take a more personal approach to sentencing. Instead of imposing uniform, mandatory prison sentences for felony DUI convictions, a judge can personally consider your case and use his or her discretion to determine the sentence that will best help you and protect the public good.
How defense attorneys respond to the new law
A felony conviction is much more serious than a misdemeanor and could have lifelong consequences. It may prevent you from getting the job you desire. You may also lose your right to own a firearm, which may affect your leisure time if you enjoy hunting. A felony on your record may prevent you from receiving government assistance.
In light of the new aggressive law, lawyers have had to become more aggressive with their own strategies. Your attorney will likely challenge every aspect of your case, including the breath or blood tests and the validity of the traffic stop. His or her goal will be to have the charges reduced or dropped altogether.
Having an advocate who is willing to fight for your rights is vital for the protection of your future. Your attorney will use every resource to bring about the best possible results.