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Bill to make repeat DUI offenses felonies on the table

Beginning with the 2015 legislative session, Colorado lawmakers are striving to do something that they were unsuccessful at doing previously: they will reportedly attempt, once again, to make repeat DUI offenses chargeable as felony offenses.

Colorado, one of four states that treat all DUIs as misdemeanors, is attempting to do what 46 other states have done already by subjecting repeat offenders to prison time if convicted. The same measure was proposed in 2014 but failed to pass.

Every year in Colorado, an average of 12,000 DUI convictions for repeat offenders take place in the state. While proponents of the bill indicate a need for the state to impose greater potential punishment to stave repeat offenses, opponents point to the great costs associated with incarcerating repeat DUI offenders in the prison system. A cost analysis of the proposed bill estimated an annual cost to taxpayers of roughly $50 million each year. Proponents of the legislation indicated they intend to perform a new cost analysis, and they anticipate the actual estimated costs will be lower.

DUI offenses in the state are already treated quite harshly, subjecting those convicted to potentially lengthy jail sentences, mandatory probation and treatment and high fines including court costs. While drunk driving cases both in the state and across the nation are problematic, prison and felony convictions may not be the answer to the problem. In the event a repeat offender is charged with a new DUI, he or she may want to get help from a criminal defense attorney. A prosecutor must prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. In some cases, the charges may be successfully challenged by an attorney at trial or settled outside of a courtroom.

Source: FOX 31 Denver, "Colorado lawmakers to try to make repeat DUI offenders face felony charges", David Mitchell, Jan. 6, 2015

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