Felony DUI Bill Clears Colorado Legislature On Final Day
Colorado will soon have a felony DUI law on the books. On the final day of the legislative session the Senate passed House Bill 1043 [.pdf] to create a felony DUI for habitual drunken driving offenders. Legislators had failed to pass it for several years, this time it passed the Senate 34-1.
"There are some holes this legislation is never going to fill there are family members we're not going to get back, and tragedies we can't undo," said Senator Mike Johnston (D-Denver) the bill's sponsor.
Only a handful of states don't have a felony DUI law. Some lawmakers were worried about the costs of incarceration, other legislators wanted to make sure the state provided proper treatments and interventions before giving jail time.
#HB 1043 on creating a felony DUI in the state clears Senate 34-1. @owenjhill is the only no vote. #coleg #copolitics— Bente Birkeland (@BenteBirkeland) May 6, 2015
Supporters said this version strikes the right balance. Several lawmakers had their own personal experiences.
"It could be you or it could be your family members," said Senator John Cooke (R- Greeley) another bill sponsor. Cooke said he was recently in a car accident. "It happened to me about five months ago at 2:30 in the afternoon in the middle of Greeley. A repeat drunk driver turned right in front of me, we went up on the sidewalk, barely missing two pedestrians."
The class 4 felony would apply to people after three or more prior DUI convictions. According to a non-partisan legislative analysis of the bill, the state had 24,124 DUI cases in 2014.
Governor John Hickenlooper had called for the measure to become law during his State of the State Address at the beginning of the annual session.
"We will work with you on a felony DUI law that brings justice to drivers who repeatedly drink and drive," the governor said in the speech.
It now heads to his desk.