Today the proposed law, making a third DUI in seven years or fourth in a lifetime a class four felony, was rejected in Senate committee. A class four felony is punishable by up to six years in prison. Colorado is one of four states that does not have a felony level DUI on its books.
In 2009, the Denver Post conducted a special investigation into DUI sentencing. Specifically, the investigation focused on 202 vehicular homicide cases, involving DUI. The study showed inconsistent sentences, often sentences involving no jail time, and at times the drivers drove drunk and killed again. However, it is important to note that vehicular homicide and assault are felonies. In fact, they are class three and four felonies, which is the same as the proposed DUI felony. Vehicular homicide and assault do not carry mandatory prison or jail time. In contrast, after the first DUI or DWAI conviction, there is mandatory jail time. While this jail time may be served in alternative ways depending on the time in between priors, there is mandatory jail time.
Proponents of the felony DUI law discuss public safety concerns and the fact that even on a 10th DUI, a person is only subject to a jail sentence. Those who oppose the felony DUI argue that the focus should be on rehabilitating those with alcohol or drug problems rather than on jailing people. Regardless, for now, Colorado will not have a felony DUI offense.
Source: “Measure to create felony DUI in Colorado rejected by Senate Democrats,” The Denver Post, Kurtis Lee, May 6, 2014.