Multiple DUI could become a felony if proposed bill passes

Critics say tougher punishments are too expensive and ineffective

A Colorado lawmaker has introduced a bill, House Bill 1043, that would making multiple DUI offenses a felony in the state, according to the Longmont Times-Call. While similar proposals for a felony DUI bill have been made in the past and have always failed, supporters say that this year they have the necessary bipartisan support to get the bill signed into law. Making DUI a felony charge, however, is not without controversy and critics worry that the proposal, while well-meaning, could prove expensive and ineffective.

DUI currently a misdemeanor

Under current Colorado law, multiple DUI offenses are treated as a misdemeanor, meaning habitual offenders could rack up an impressive series of DUI charges without ever being faced with a felony. Colorado, along with Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, is one of the few jurisdictions where there is no felony DUI law, according to 9 News. However, prosecutors do currently have the option of charging people with a felony DUI if they combine that charge with a habitual traffic offender charge.

The proposed legislation would make three DUI arrests within seven years or four DUI arrests over a lifetime a felony, which could result in tougher punishments for repeat offenders. The bill also proposes lengthening the amount of time that DUI offenders are required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles.

Well-meaning, but ineffective?

While making Colorado's roads and highways safe is certainly a laudable goal, a felony DUI law may not be the best way to go about doing that, critics say. Programs that focus on alcohol abuse and prevention tend to prove better at bringing down drunk driving rates and they are also more cost effective.

Also, at a time when growing incarceration rates are becoming a concern for many taxpayers, a new felony law may prove unsustainable. By charging repeat DUI offenders with a felony, incarceration rates may increase. As such, the cost to taxpayers for the felony DUI bill may be in the tens of millions of dollars-money that may be better used for education, mental health, or other programs that keep drunk driving from happening in the first place.

Charged with a DUI?

If the above bill becomes law, DUI will become a significantly more serious offense in Colorado. Even under the current law, however, a DUI charge can have serious repercussions, including fines, jail time, and driving restrictions. Those punishments also fail to take into account the damage that can result to one's reputation, regardless of whether a charge actually leads to a conviction. Anybody facing these serious charges needs to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. With experienced legal help, defendants will be able to tackle the problem of a DUI charge with confidence and expert guidance.