DUI will do you in, as Colorado cracks down with tougher sentencing | VailDaily.com

DUI will do you in, as Colorado cracks down with tougher sentencing

EAGLE — If you're convicted of felony DUI, then you're going to jail, under a new state law.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 17-1288, which closes a loophole in a 2015 law that sometimes hamstrung judges into giving habitual drunken drivers no jail time.

Now, if you're convicted of your fourth DUI, then you're a convicted felon. You'll serve:

Ninety to 180 days in county jail. No time off for good behavior.

• One hundred and twenty days to two years if you're serving an alternative sentence, such as work release.

• Forty-eight to 120 hours of useful community service, which may not be suspended.

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• Complete alcohol and drug driving safety education or treatment program at your own expense.

You're going to jail, or maybe not

The mandatory treatment terms for misdemeanor DUI convictions are now applicable to felonies, as well, District Attorney Bruce Brown said in a statement.

"It was necessary because when the felony law was enacted, there were sentencing loopholes allowing persons with fewer DUI convictions to have mandatory jail sentences exceeding those for felons. In many instances, judges were actually imposing less harsh sentences for persons with more convictions," Brown said.

In 2015, Colorado lawmakers passed a felony DUI law that classified the fourth and subsequent DUI convictions as felonies. But that reclassification had the unintended consequence of erasing the previous mandatory jail time for a fourth conviction, wrote the Denver law firm Burg Simpson.

A 2016 Denver Post review of sentencing data found that, after the 2015 law passed, about 8 percent of those convicted of felony DUI were not sentenced to jail at all.

"That was a big oversight on the legislature's part," said local defense attorney Jim Little.

How we got here

Colorado's DUI saga started six years ago when Colorado lawmakers beefed up the state's DUI law, while avoiding efforts to make any DUI a felony.

If you were in court in 2011 for your second DUI, then you were about to spend at least 10 days in jail, with no time off for good behavior. However, that was only if your first DUI was within five years of your second. If it was longer than five years, you could be sentenced to electric home monitoring. You'd also likely get probation, community service, fines, court costs and a 365-day suspended sentence.

Those 2011 lawmakers also mandated 60 days to one year in jail for your third DUI, plus probation, community service, treatment, fines and court costs.

In 2015, lawmakers finally classified a fourth DUI as a felony, with up to six years in prison possible.

However, that 2015 bill included no mandatory jail time for habitual drunken drivers — someone with three or more DUI convictions. Also, felony court judges could not sentence prison time unless all community-based alternatives had been exhausted.

That meant a three-time offender could be sentenced to one year in county jail, and if he or she failed in the second year of probation, that person would have to serve that 365-day suspended sentence, in addition to the year already served.

State lawmakers closed that loophole in this year's session with House Bill 17-1288. It requires that habitual drunken drivers spend some time in jail or prison.

Gov. Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on June 5.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Felony DUI filings in 2016

Eagle County: 24

Garfield County: 22

Summit County: 16

Pitkin County: 2

Source: Colorado Judicial Branch

First DUI costs $13K

If you’re convicted of a first-time DUI, you can expect to spend at least 170 hours dealing with the consequences, said Christine Flavia, manager of the DUI Services Program at the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health.

A first-time DUI in Colorado now costs an average of $13,530 in legal fees, time and lost wages Flavia said in a written statement.

The average first-time DUI offense requires 76 combined hours of alcohol and drug education and therapy classes, and you can only take two hours of classes per week. This means an individual will need to take weekly classes for nine months.

The average DUI also requires you to drive with an ignition interlock-restricted license for two years. At least once every 60 days, drivers must schedule a download of their ignition interlock device so an interlock service provider can send data to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Additionally, the DUI case could mean monthly visits with a probation officer for 18 months.

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