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Expensive and Ineffective Felony DUI Bill Fails

We have reached the end of the 2014 legislative session in Colorado.  Lots of critics are upset that the Colorado General Assembly did not pass a felony DUI bill this session.  They are looking at this from a purely visceral level rather than from the point of view of what makes sense from a fiscal perspective as well as what actually works to reduce recidivism in Colorado DUI offenses.
Let’s first look at some statistics.  In the 2012-13 fiscal year, Colorado charged 24,632 people with DUI or other alcohol related driving offenses.  Historically speaking, 15 percent of those charged with DUI have two or more prior DUI convictions.  This bill would’ve made a 3rd DUI offense in Colorado within 5 years of the 1st DUI a fourth degree felony with a presumptive term of imprisonment of 2 – 4 years.  The bill also would’ve made a 4th DUI offense within 15 years of the first DUI a fifth degree felony with a presumptive term of imprisonment of 1 – 2 years.  The bill would’ve resulted in $20.6 million dollars being spent to imprison these offenders in the Colorado Department of Corrections just over the next 4 years.
As a Denver DUI attorney, I see repeat offenders frequently.  I understand that the public wants to do something to fix the problem of DUI recidivism.  However, plenty of other states have felony DUI laws and are spending millions of dollars each year with little to show for it.  These repeat DUI offenders spend some time in prison but leave still addicted to alcohol.  The states that are instead investing this money into DUI specific courts and DUI treatment programs are actually successful in bringing down recidivism.  I applaud the Colorado General Assembly for not passing an expensive bill that would have done little but make Colorado voters feel better but done nothing to really make Colorado safer.  I hope to see legislation in the next session to expand DUI courts and treatment.