Colorado’s new felony DUI law has done more than just escalate charges for driving under the influence – it seems to impact the sentencing consistency statewide.
Judges are now handing out different sentences for those who are “habitual offenders,” with some convicted of a felony and never receiving prison time, while others receiving extremely harsh prison sentences. The issue was highlighted in a Denver Post article. It is important for anyone who has been convicted in the past, is being charged with a DUI, or who wants to drink and drive to know about these variances.
Judges Have Wide Discretion
In the past, a habitual offender with multiple drunken driving charges would have at least 60 days in jail. While this still applies to the third-time offender, those who are charged with a fourth offense (a felony) now experience the discretion of the judge when receiving a sentence.
The law passed in 2015 due to social pressures to bring the state of Colorado in line with other states that have a harsher DUI law in place. Under this new law, the fourth DUI carries a sentence of as much as six years in prison. Supporters had to change their acceptance of some of the punishments, agreeing that the felony DUI conviction would not have a mandatory amount of jail time.
What the Article Discovered
In the Denver Post article, 316 felony DUI cases from August 2015 were assessed. In this sampling, 25 were sentenced to community service or probation, but no incarceration whatsoever.
Also, 30 percent of those cases had a prison sentence, while 48 percent had jail sentences. The remainder, which was 22 percent, had time served in halfway houses, work-release programs, or probation.
Of the lenient sentences, eight percent never spent any time in jail at all.
While these numbers seem favorable for anyone who is arrested for a DUI, it is important to realize that the issue pointed out by the Denver Post is the fact that judges use their discretion. Therefore, if a judge feels that you are a habitual DUI offender and that there is a limited chance that you will learn your lesson from lighter sentencing, he or she can impose the six years in prison and apply the felony charges to your criminal record.
Laws May Change Soon
Lawmakers are receiving pressure to harshen the penalties for habitual DUI offenders. In fact, there are some who would like to see a maximum of one year in jail for the third offense. Also, they would like to see one to three years in jail for a felony DUI instead of the 90 days for probation.
Arrested for a DUI? Don’t Risk Your Future to Discretion
Knowing how a judge will react to your DUI offense is impossible. If you have been arrested for a DUI, do not risk your future. Instead, contact a Colorado DUI defense attorney who has experience handling first-time and multiple DUI offenses.