On Monday, June 5, 2015 Colorado Governor Jay Hickenlooper signed HB 1043, clearing the way for the bill to become law on August 5th, 2015. The law will make a 4th driving under the influence (DUI) offense in any period of time a felony offense, clearing the way for significantly increased penalties. This law is likely to have a significant effect on the way that courts and prosecutors handle DUI cases, and defense attorneys will also need to adapt to the way this law will influence plea negotiations and DUI trials. In addition, many non-lawyer Colorado residents have questions regarding exactly what the law does and does not do. As a result, we have tried to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the new law below.
Has the new law taken effect?
No, and Colorado voters actually have still an opportunity to block the law by requesting a referendum before August 5th. Under Colorado law, voters can overturn any act of the legislature by referendum unless the law includes a clause indicating that it is “immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety,” which Colorado lawmakers did not include in this law.
What are the new penalties authorized by the law?
Currently, Colorado is one of only 4 states that does not have a felony DUI offense. This means that regardless of how many previous DUI offenses a person has had, the penalties cannot exceed more than 18 months in jail or fines of $5,000. Under the new law, a 4th or subsequent DUI offense may result in up to 6 years in jail and fines of $500,000.
Can out of state offenses be considered by the court?
Yes. The bill states that drunk driving offenses that happen elsewhere in the United States that would be classified as a DUI under Colorado law will count against an offender in terms of determining the number of prior offenses.
Does every 4th or subsequent offense count as a felony?
No, the law gives judges significant discretion in determining whether to impose a felony conviction. It requires that the judge determine that incarceration is the best course of action given the facts and circumstances surrounding the case and to consider whether the defendant is willing to participate in treatment. Additionally, the law also requires that the judge find that treatment is unlikely to be effective and that the defendant poses an unacceptable risk to public safety in order to impose a felony sentence.
Contact a Colorado DUI defense attorney today to schedule a free consultation
Colorado lawmakers are obviously interested in punishing DUI offenders as harshly as possible. While many observers, including noted Colorado DUI defense attorney Jay Tiftickjian, believe that a felony DUI bill was an unnecessary measure, it seems that it will shortly become the law of the land in the state. As a result, it is extremely important for anyone who has been accused of drunk or drugged driving in the state of Colorado to retain qualified legal counsel as soon as possible. To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys, call the Tiftickjian Law Firm today at 303-DUI-5280 or send us an email through our online contact form.