When laws are passed at the state level, we don’t always understand or witness the affects until years later, especially if criminal proceedings or sentencing is involved. This is because it takes months for criminal cases to go through the entire process between being arrested and getting sentenced – or not – and even longer for the statistics to show significant change.
That being said, in late 2016 local and state news sources around Colorado started seeing and reporting on some of the impact that two different changes to the law seemed to be having on DUI charges and convictions in the state.
Persistent Drunk Driver Status Bumps Up the Cost of DUI
In Colorado, there is a specific label for drivers who are accused on multiple counts of driving under the influence: persistent drunk driver (PDD.) If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is high enough, you may even get that label after your first DUI charge.
Before 2014, you had to have a BAC of .17 to get PDD status for your first DUI. That year, however, state lawmakers lowered the required BAC to .15. That may not seem like a big change, especially when the BAC requirement for DUI is much lower – .08.
However, the average BAC that is blown during a DUI arrest is around .16. In other words, lots of people getting arrested for DUIs already meet the new PDD requirement.
Charging more people as a PDD greatly increases the fines and penalties against them – and recent statistics have shown it has a big impact on the costs of DUI overall. In 2008, the average cost of a DUI was just over $10,000. Now, the average cost is just over $13,500, and 55% of this increase is due to the change in PDD requirements.
Felony Charges for Habitual DUI Offenders
Fines are not the only penalties impacted by recent changes to Colorado law. The year after the PDD limit was lowered to .15, lawmakers introduced more legislation to get tough on drivers who decided to get behind the wheel while under the influence.
Before 2015, district attorneys could only pursue misdemeanor DUI charges. This rarely resulted in jail time for convicted drivers. Moreover, if they were sentenced to jail, it would not be for longer than one year.
That changed in 2015. That year, a Colorado law introduced “felony DUI” crimes, allowing district attorneys to pursue felony charges for anyone:
- Facing a third DUI conviction in the past seven years
- Facing a fourth DUI conviction over any time period
Felony DUI convictions are penalized by up to six years in prison, as well as higher fines.
Since the law has been in place, over 1,100 felony DUI charges have been pressed in state courts. Legislative economists have used these numbers to predict an increase of up to 500 people in the state’s incarceration facilities in the next three years.
If You Are Charged With DUI
An extra 500 people in Colorado prisons does not seem like a huge increase – until you are up on the stand facing those years in prison yourself. An increase of $3,500 may not seem like much – unless you have to pay it.
The bottom line is that these laws can have a direct impact on anyone who is accused or charged with DUI. Even a first charge without the label of a persistent drunk driver can eventually add up to a felony DUI charge and multiple years in jail. Start fighting DUI charges against you now by contacting a Colorado DUI lawyer and getting started on your defense today.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2016 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.