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Colorado Proposes Upgrading Repeat DUIs to Felonies

Colorado is considering upping the ante by handing out felonies to repeat DUI offenders. All DUIs are misdemeanor offenses at the moment. Still, a bill currently under review by the Colorado House Judiciary would elevate a fourth lifetime DUI to a felony. It would also make a third DUI within seven years a felony offense.

Although the revised version of the bill does not contain any mandatory incarceration sentences, a felony conviction could include up to one year in prison. According to the author of the legislation, former House Minority Leader Mark Waller, the point is not to “lock more people up, but to encourage treatment options.” That’s why the seven-year time limit is so important; it distinguishes isolated mistakes from severe substance abuse problems.

“You get two DUIs in your twenties, and then 25 years later, you get your third DUI; maybe that’s not appropriate to have a felony either,” Waller told Denver’s Channel 7 News.

If the law does indeed change, individuals with multiple DUIs to their name will no longer be able to avoid checking “yes” to inquiries about prior felony convictions. The increased penalties could hinder employment prospects, higher education opportunities, entry into Canada and other international ports, and exercising certain political and social rights.

Several states, including Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, and Utah, assign a felony charge to a third DUI conviction (some only if there has been a previous offense within ten years). Over a dozen more states consider a fourth DUI a felony. At the same time, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, and Oklahoma often make it a felony after only the second offense. Colorado is one of just six states that does not presently give out felonies for DUIs.

The proposed legislation reflects a broader national trend of reevaluating DUI penalties and emphasizing treatment and rehabilitation over strict punitive measures. Proponents argue that such reforms can address the root causes of drunk driving and contribute to reducing recidivism rates.

As the bill progresses through the legislative process, how Colorado’s approach to DUI offenses will evolve remains to be seen. The potential shift towards felony charges for repeat DUI offenders underscores the ongoing efforts to strike a balance between accountability and rehabilitation in addressing the complex issue of impaired driving.

The proposed legislation in Colorado to upgrade repeat DUI offenses to felonies marks a significant shift in the state’s approach to addressing impaired driving. Spearheaded by former House Minority Leader Mark Waller, the bill underscores a commitment to prioritizing treatment over incarceration, aiming to distinguish between isolated mistakes and chronic substance abuse problems through a seven-year time limit. While the revised bill does not mandate incarceration, a felony conviction could lead to up to one year in prison. If enacted, this change would impact individuals with multiple DUIs, affecting their responses to inquiries about prior felony convictions and potentially hindering their employment prospects, educational opportunities, international travel, and certain civic rights. Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, which is dedicated to promoting responsible behavior and societal well-being, acknowledges the importance of balancing accountability and rehabilitation in addressing DUI offenses.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

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