A judge in Weld County handed down the first felony DUI sentence in the county. In August, a new law took effect, making a fourth DUI in a lifetime a class 4 felony. The Weld County defendant had 9 prior alcohol or drug related driving offenses. Cumulatively, he had spent 12 years on probation and over 1,000 days in jail. Today, the judge sentenced him to 6 years in Community Corrections. Community Corrections is a halfway house, not prison. The felony DUI is, however, punishable by prison time.
Repeat DUI offenders typically spend quite a bit of time on probation. DUI’s and DWAI’s are misdemeanors, but have a specific sentencing scheme that is different from the sentencing permitted for other misdemeanors. For a non-DUI/DWAI misdemeanor, there is a limit on how much jail time can be imposed, while still allowing for a probationary sentence. A judge may only sentence a person to 60 days of jail if the judge wants to also sentence the person to probation. However, DUI is punishable by up to 12 months jail and then, following that 12 months, the law requires probation. The law also allows the judge to suspend an additional year of jail as a condition of probation. This means that if a person fails to complete probation, the judge could impose another year of jail.
Before the felony DUI law passed, the possible punishment for a DUI or DWAI was the same whether a person had 2 priors or 10 priors. The felony DUI law has dramatically changed the possible penalties, allowing the court to impose up to 6 years in prison. When a person serves prison time, there is a mandatory period of parole that follows.