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Those who have lived In Colorado for some time are familiar with the far too frequent occurrence of death or dismemberment associated with drunk driving. Legislature in Colorado has recognized the issue and has made several attempts to correct it. On February 2nd, 2015 a bill was passed by the Colorado General Assembly (13-0) which would make a third DUI a Potential Felony, provided there are aggravating circumstances, and would make a fourth DUI a felony regardless of circumstances.
In Colorado, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is defined as operating a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) greater than .08 percent. Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) is defined as operating a motor vehicle with a BAC greater than .05 percent. The proposed bill would lower the BAC requirements for a DUI of repeat offenders, and would lower it even more so if the offence was committed under aggravating circumstances. An aggravating circumstance implies that there was an injury caused by the crime. There are many specifications outlined in the new law that are aimed at keeping repeat offenders off the streets.
Previously, penalties for an individual convicted of their twelfth DUI were similar if not identical to those imposed on them for their second or third offence. The law is an attempt to get drivers who regularly drive under the influence off the streets before they cause yet another tragic DUI related death. Colorado is one of the few states without a felony DUI law. The proposed law will now go on to seek approval from the House Finance Committee. A similar bill was shot down last year by the Senates Judiciary Committee, after being approved 56-6 by the House. The largest concern halting the progress of this type of bill is the cost. The imposition on the tax payers and state coffers was too high for the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve in 2014.
Opponents of the bill argue that police checkpoints and more thorough rehabilitation for offenders would be a more effective solution than increased legal penalties. Proponents of the bill see it as a solution to reduce the instance of death and injury from Intoxicated Driving. Costs of increased police presence and increased rehabilitation for offenders could amount to less than the cost of the proposed bill, but proponents of the bill claim it would be significantly less effective. The large cost of the proposed bill can be accounted for by the increased costs on the part of the court and penal system here in Colorado. Judges would spend more bench time trying DUI felony offenders, public servants would log more hours representing the new DUI felons, and prisons would have an increase in inmate population. All of these increased burdens would not only slow the justice system but also cost taxpayers, the cities, and the state of Colorado considerably more.
Proponents argue that the increased cost is more than worth the peace of mind brought on by the bill. Individuals in Colorado can feel safer while driving, knowing that there are less drivers on the road driving under the influence. Attempting to balance the desire for the safety of taxpayers with their proponents to pay taxes is no small feat. Legislators here in Colorado have been tasked with weighing the costs and benefits of this bill, both socially and monetarily. The specific details of the proposed law alter how DUI offences will be handled, and are anticipated to have positive social ramifications but at a monetary cost. Regardless of how it is conducted, state legislation appears to be committed to decreasing the instances of DUIs in Colorado, and more importantly decreasing the number of deaths associated with DUIs.
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