As a personal injury law firm, we have seen firsthand the devastation caused by drunk drivers. It’s hard to believe that Colorado along with Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. are the only states that do not charge repeat DUI offenders with a felony. But, a new bill to charge repeat DUI offenders with a felony is one step closer to becoming a law in Colorado. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill last week and it now moves on to the House Finance Committee.
Currently in Colorado, repeat drunk drivers are charged with a misdemeanor which may include fines and up to one year in the county jail―no matter how many DUI convictions they may have. A felony DUI charge would include prison with harsher sentences. Under the new bill, a repeat DUI offender would receive a felony charge on the fourth DUI offense or on the third offense if there are aggravating circumstances such as having a BAC of .15 or higher, if there an underage person in the car, if there is property damage, if the offender has left the scene of the crash and if someone suffered injuries due to the drunk driving crash.
According to a Fox 31 report, every year nearly 12,000 Colorado drivers commit a repeat DUI offense.
Consider these Colorado drunk driver stories:
- Ellie Phipps from Grand Junction suffered severe, life-threatening injuries when she was rear-ended by a drunk driver, a seven time DUI offender. She was hospitalized and endured open heart surgery and a back surgery. She still has lingering health problems and has lost her business. The drunk driver only served 3 months in jail.
- Gregory Scott Allen died in a car accident caused by a drunk driver who had four DUI’s and had his license revoked at the time of this drunk driving crash. The drunk driver was also died in this drunk driving crash.
- Denny Lovern has 16 DUI related convictions with most of them in Colorado. One arrest involved crashing into a fence with a BAC of .321, nearly four times the legal limit of .08. In November 2014, Lovern was indicted when he crashed into a car in Englewood, Colorado and left the scene of the accident. Arapahoe Districk Attorney George Brauchler charged Lovern with felony charges of attempted manslaughter and attempted assault based on the fact that Lovern was reckless by choosing to drive while drunk.
- Dan Brooks is charged with his 12th DUI in Longmont. Brooks was stopped when he was spotted drinking in his truck. He failed the field sobriety test and was arrested. Brooks has multiple DUI and DWAI convictions across multiple counties including, Boulder and Larimar counties. Brooks was also convicted of a DUI related vehicular assault. When arrested, Brooks was driving with a suspended license.
- Three family members of the Martinez family, including 2 children were killed in a drunk driving accident in Weld County. Another victim was hospitalized with severe injuries. This drunk driver had at least 8 prior DUI arrests and also died.
Opponents of the bill claim it would cost the taxpayers too much to enforce, prosecute and jail these repeat offenders. Supporters of the bill claim that this cost is much lower at approximately Opponents also claim that treatment to help those addicted to drugs or alcohol is a better solution to reduce repeat DUI offenders. Other solutions offered by those opposing this bill include more DUI checkpoints and more police presence during high alcohol consumption periods.
Most would argue that a felony conviction with a harsher prison sentence isn’t going to deter these habitual offenders from drinking and getting behind the wheel again. But it might keep one drunk or drugged driver off the road and keep their next victim safe. If you’ve been injured in a car accident involving a drunk or drugged driver, contact the Bendinelli Law Firm, P.C. for a free and confidential consultation. We can help!