“Colorado is one of just five states left with no felony DUI law,” said Colorado House of Representatives Minority Leader Mark Waller. Waller has been pushing for a stricter policy on drunk drivers that would make repeat drunk driving offenses a felony, and The Century Council is supporting his efforts along with the Colorado District Attorneys, Sheriffs, the Fraternal Order of Police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Even as national alcohol-impaired traffic deaths have steadily declined to an all-time low in 2011, deaths caused by hardcore drunk drivers have persisted; especially in Colorado, where 127 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2010.
Under current law in Colorado, all DUI convictions are considered a misdemeanor offense, and the court has discretion on whether or not to require the offender to use ignition interlock and continuous alcohol monitoring devices. We believe in judicial discretion and we know that judges are in the best position to assess a DUI offender for recidivism risk and alcohol treatment needs. However, we also know that hardcore drunk drivers can be difficult to detect, prosecute and properly sanction and treat. Hardcore drunk drivers know the weak spots in the judicial system and often manipulate them to avoid appropriate sanctions and treatment, leading to continued recidivism.
Minority Leader Waller’s bill, House Bill (HB) 1214, would increase sanctions for the most dangerous repeat DUI offenders. HB 1214 would make a third DUI conviction within seven years a Class 5 Felony. It would also require the use of monitoring devices such as ignition interlock devices and continuous alcohol monitoring. These monitoring devices have been very effective in reducing recidivism when used in tandem with alcohol treatment efforts. These types of comprehensive approaches to hardcore drunk driving are critically needed.
As said by Waller, “[it doesn’t make sense that a] person who has an alcohol problem or a total disregard for the law doesn’t have more of an incentive not to drink and get behind the wheel.” In Colorado, the majority (83 percent) of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities involving repeat drunk drivers had a BAC of .15 percent or more (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2012).
The Century Council works through various initiatives to fight drunk driving and supports bills like HB 1214 in order to eliminate drunk driving wherever possible.