Harsher Penalties Could Be On The Way For DUI Offenders

Credit: AP

There could be some new, stronger penalties on the way for those who take to the roads after having too much to drink.

Under current Colorado law, a DUI is considered a misdemeanor whether its the first time or the fifth time. Colorado is one of only five states that does not have a felony conviction for repeat offenders. But under a new bill, which unanimously passed its first committee Thursday, three DUI or DWAI convictions in seven years would be a felony. Four in a lifetime would also be a felony.

One lawyer explained to 11 News that the proposed law would better enable law enforcement to keep track of repeat offenders.

"There isn't a uniform system for keeping track of how many DUIs somebody has been convicted of."

The fact that multiple DUIs are at present not a felony in Colorado was surprising to one woman 11 News spoke with, who thought that was already the case.

"I think it's crazy! I mean, if you get caught the first time it should be pretty harsh...and every time after that should be severe. If you haven't learned your lesson the first time, you're endangering people's lives," Annalicia Miller said.

According to Colorado State Patrol, in 40 percent of crashes caused by a DUI driver someone is killed. In some cases, the offenders had 20 or more previous DUI convictions.

House Bill 1214, as the proposed law is currently known, sailed through the House Appropriations Committee Thursday with bipartisan support.

“The goal is to make Colorado’s roads safer,” Rep. Mark Waller, the bill's sponsor, said in a statement. “It is understandable that a person in their 20s may have a lapse in judgment and later in life may mess up again, but it needs to be known that this is a serious issue and that repeat offenses will not be tolerated. People’s lives are changed every day by the decision to drive drunk and offenders must be held accountable for their actions, regardless of whether someone is hurt or not.”