On Wednesday, August 9, a number of new Colorado laws went into effect, including but not limited to:
- HB17-1179, which allows someone to break into a locked car to free a distressed child or animal.
- HB17-1266, which allows people who were convicted of marijuana possession or use prior to legalization to pay to have their criminal records sealed.
- SB17-008, which legalizes the possession of gravity knives and switchblade knives.
- HB17-1150, which prevents those convicted of felony stalking or habitual domestic violence from receiving bail.
- HB17-1288, which requires mandatory jail time for a felony DUI.
This last law modifies “the penalties for DUI offenders who commit their fourth and subsequent DUI offenses.” For those that already have at least three DUIs on their record, this new law could greatly affect you, so let’s look at it in detail.
What Is a Felony DUI Under Colorado Law?
If you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer on suspicion of drinking and driving and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or more, you can be charged with a DUI or driving under the influence.
If this is your very first DUI offense, you will be charged with a misdemeanor, which is punishable by 5 days to up to one year in jail, $600-$1,000 in fines, and 48-96 hours of community service.
A second DUI is also a misdemeanor punishable by 10 days to up to one year in jail, $600-$1,500 in fines, and 48-120 hours of community service.
A third DUI is a more severe misdemeanor punishable by 60 days to up to one year in jail, $600-$1,500 in fines, and 48-120 hours of community service.
A fourth DUI, on the other hand, is a Class 4 felony offense, which is punishable by 2-6 years in prison, 3 years parole, and 48-120 hours of community service.
The new HB17-1288 law, however, alters some of the penalties for a felony DUI offender.
How Will the New Felony DUI Law Affect Me?
Under the old law, there were three sentences felony DUI offenders could receive:
- Probation without any jail time;
- Two to six years in prison; or
- Probation with up to 90 days in the county jail.
After reviewing a number of felony DUI cases, The Denver Post found that around 8 percent of people convicted of a fourth DUI didn’t serve any jail time. In some cases, defendants even decided to plead guilty to a felony DUI because they might end up with a lesser jail sentence.
Under the new law, if an offender is sentenced to probation, they will also be required to serve at least 90 days in jail, and up to 180 days.
If the defendant wants to participate in an alternative sentencing program, they will be required to serve at least 120 days in jail, and up to two years.
This means that regardless of what your sentence actually is, it will be mandatory to serve at least some time in jail.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Karzen said, “The new statutory scheme still requires courts to consider appropriate alternative sanctions…which…is an important component of changing behavior and avoiding recidivism. At the same time, the new law accounts for the repeating history of DUI by requiring a significant punishment component in the form of substantial county jail.”
If you have three DUIs and have been charged with a fourth, you are looking at mandatory jail time, but how much jail time could depend on your attorney. If you’re being charged with a felony DUI, contact an experienced Colorado DUI attorney today to see how they can help you beat your charges.
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 and 2013 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.