Governor signs Colorado's first felony DUI bill into law

Colorado's new felony DUI bill brings in tough new sentences while maintaining treatment options for some offenders.

Fourth DUI could now result in a felony conviction and years in prison

After much debate and controversy, Colorado now has a felony DUI law, according ABC7 News. Governor John Hickenlooper recently signed a bill into law that makes a fourth DUI charge a potential felony offense in the state. The new measure is designed to make Colorado's roads and highways safer, but critics say the law is a waste of resources that could have been better spent on programs that tackle the bigger problem of alcohol addiction. The new law means repeat offenders could face longer prison sentences and hefty fines.

Repeat offenders

The bill is primarily aimed at repeat offenders. According to 9News, after a person racks up three DUI convictions anywhere in the United States, then on a fourth DUI charge in Colorado he or she could face a felony offense. Charging a repeat offender with a felony offense, however, is not mandatory; rather, it is left up to the judge. Some individuals may respond better to treatment than prison, for example, in which case the judge has the discretion to sentence that person to rehabilitation.

For people who are charged with a felony, however, the sentences can be harsh. A conviction could result in six months in prison as well as a fine of up to $500,000. The new law is set to go into effect August 5.

Treatment and money

The main opposition to the bill concerned the costs of incarcerating more people. In three years, it is expected that the law will lead to an additional 426 felons serving time in state prisons, which will end up costing taxpayers an extra $9.4 million per year. Critics of the bill had argued that such money would have been better spent on alcohol treatment programs that could tackle the causes of drunk driving.

Some of those criticisms did lead to measures in the new law that are designed to prevent repeat offenses. Specifically, the new law expands the use of ignition interlock devices which prevent a car from starting if alcohol is detected in the driver's system. People who have been given a conditional license will now have to have the devices installed for two to five years, up from the previous one-year requirement.

DUI defense

Colorado's DUI laws are quickly becoming some of the toughest in the nation, meaning anybody who has been charged with drunk driving cannot afford to take these charges lightly. A defendant's liberty, livelihood, and future are at stake in the face of a DUI conviction. A criminal defense attorney should be contacted immediately as he can advise clients about their legal options and fight to mitigate the harm a DUI charge and conviction could do to their lives.