In certain respects Colorado has some of the most restrictive DUI laws in the nation and in other ways, Colorado has some of the most lenient DUI laws in the nation. For a first time offense, Colorado requires a person convicted of a DUI or DWAI to complete extensive alcohol education and treatment, community service hours and a victim impact panel. In most instances, even for a first time DUI or DWAI, probation is ordered by the court. For a first time offense, these consequences are more severe than the consequences for a first time offense in other states. Some other states only require a fine or a low level alcohol class.
However, in some states, having multiple DUI convictions can result in a felony charge. In Colorado, so long as no one is killed or injured as a result of drunk driving, a DUI driver, regardless of the number of prior convictions for drunk driving, can only be charged with a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a DUI regardless of the number of priors, is 12 months in jail.
Lawmakers are attempting to pass legislation that would make a DUI a felony under certain circumstances. The law currently being proposed would make a DUI a felony if a person gets three DUI’s in a seven year period or four in a lifetime. By making a repeat DUI conviction a felony, it then becomes punishable by prison time. Currently, the law is proposing that a felony DUI may be punished by up to six years in prison, indicating that it may classified as a class four felony. It is not clear whether prison would be mandatory, but it would make sense that prison would be mandatory because part of the rationale for making a DUI a felony is the idea that the probation and education and therapy completed for the prior convictions did not address the problem.
For now, DUI’s are unclassified misdemeanors regardless of whether it is first time offense or more. Even for a first time DUI, there are significant consequences and should lawmakers succeed in passing a law making DUI’s a felony, it is even more important to analyze a case before pleading guilty to any alcohol related driving offense because any conviction for a DUI or DWAI will remain permanently on your record.