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Colorado’s Appropropiations Committee will consider House Bill 1214, that would make certain DUI arrests in Colorado felonies, after the bill was unanimously approved by the state’s House Judiciary Committee, as CBS4 Denver reports.

As Eli Stokols writes for

‘Colorado is one of just five states left with no felony DUI law,’ said House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, the bill’s sponsor. ‘So you can be convicted of your fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh DUI and get the same penalty every time.’

Stokols writes that Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said: “We can’t have people repeatedly getting DUIs in a short period of time and never risking becoming a felon as a result.”

According to Colorado State Patrol, someone is killed in 40% of accidents caused by a DUI driver, and in some cases those drivers had as many as 20 or more previous DUI convictions, an article posted on says.

An editorial in The Denver Post titled, “Colorado needs felony DUI law,” gives the details of the proposed bill:

Specifically, House Bill 1214 would require a motorist be charged with a Class 5 felony for the third incident of driving under the influence in the past seven years or the fourth incident in a lifetime. And on the second and subsequent offenses it would also mandate with probation an ignition interlock device for offenders as well as ‘continuous alcohol monitoring,’ rather than leave those options to the discretion of the court.

The Denver Post editorial board writes that although drivers with severe drinking problems have shown an indifference to potential sanctions, they are “not oblivious to punishment.” The board writes that, as Waller notes, “having a felony on your record is a definite deterrent.”

The board goes on to say:

[T]he bill’s threat of heightened jail time, mandatory probation and the imposition of an ignition interlock device and regular alcohol monitoring by a court should reduce the risk to other motorists.

Finally, an amendment to the bill would allow DUI offenders the option of alcohol treatment — which they’d have to successfully complete — in lieu of a jail sentence. Given the grave alcoholism among some repeat offenders, this provision may be as important as any in the bill.

The board notes that three years ago, the state legislature increased penalties for drunk driving, a response “in part to Denver Post articles demonstrating that many repeat offenders, even with as many as seven DUI convictions, escaped any jail time.” But that legislation did not create a DUI felony, which Waller bill would.

KKTV quotes Waller:

It is understandable that a person in their 20s may have a lapse in judgment and later in life may mess up again, but it needs to be known that this is a serious issue and that repeat offenses will not be tolerated. People’s lives are changed every day by the decision to drive drunk and offenders must be held accountable for their actions, regardless of whether someone is hurt or not.

Image by Byung Kyu Park.

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