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Another Drunk Driver Tragedy Hits Denver

In the early morning hours earlier this week, a suspected drunk driver ran a red light, broadsided and killed 17-year old Juan Carlos Domiguez-Palomino. While the police continue to investigate this crime, lawmakers are working to keep drunk drivers off Colorado roadways.

Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Douglas County, is crafting a bill that would require a minimum four year prison sentence for those convicted of killing or seriously injuring someone while driving drunk. In just the past 10 years under the current law, over two dozen drunk drivers who have killed someone were only sentenced to probation. Friends, family and supporters of the victims’ families assumed that justice would be served and that the driver who chose to drive drunk and killed their loved one would be sent to prison, only to be disappointed when the drunk driver was given probation.

But that’s exactly what happened in one of Denver’s most high profile cases involving
Jeremy Bitner, an Englewood police officer. In 2012, Officer Bitner was killed by 20-year old Conner Donohue who had a blood alcohol content (BAC) estimated at .276, three times the legal limit. The under-age drunk driver, who fled the scene, was later apprehended nearly four miles away from the crime scene. Donohue pled guilty of driving under the influence, vehicular assault, leaving the scene of an accident, and leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury. Prosecutors had hoped for the maximum sentence of 34 years. Instead, he was sentenced to a total of 10 years behind bars, but was later reduced and granted probation.

In addition to targeting drunk drivers, this bill would also address the issue of driving while under the influence of marijuana. In a CBS News Denver report, Rep. Lawrence is quoted as saying:

“I think we need to send a really strong statement that Colorado is not going to tolerate people coming here, getting high, getting in a car and hurting someone. If you do that you’re going to be staying in Colorado longer than you anticipated, and it’s not going to be in a nice hotel.”

Will probation be enough justice for the Palimino family? Was probation enough justice for the Bitner family?
The Bendinelli Law Firm offers our sincere condolences to the families of Juan Palomino and Officer Jeremy Bitner as they grieve their tragic losses. Let’s hope that lawmakers can do something to provide justice to victims and their families, and protect future victims of drunk/impaired drivers. Show your support for these families and contact your Colorado State representative in backing this bill.

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