Colorado Felony DUI
In August of 2015, Colorado's felony DUI law went into effect. Colorado joined 45 other states in the United States in passing a law which makes certain classes of DUI's a felony offense. Prior to the passage of this law, any DUI in the state was a misdemeanor traffic offense, punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail. It didn't matter if it was the offender's 3rd or 17th offense. The only situations in which defendants were exposed to a felony was if their impaired driving was the proximate cause of serious bodily injury or death, which leads to charges like Vehicular Assault and Vehicular Homicide. Things changed dramatically with the passage of Colorado's Felony DUI law.
How Can Someone Be Charged?
Under the law, if you have 3 prior alcohol or drug related driving offenses in this state or any other, you can be charged with felony DUI. For the purposes of this charge, it doesn't matter when the prior offenses occurred. The courts will look at the total convictions a person has in his lifetime. For example, this means that if you had a very bad stretch 40 years ago and were convicted of 3 DUI or DWAIs (or the equivalent in any other state), you are at risk of a felony DUI upon any future alcohol related driving charge despite the fact that you have had no offenses for the intervening 40 years. If the charges were reduced to a non-alcohol related offense, or dismissed or expunged, the priors will not count against the offender.
This charge also does not distinguish driving related alcohol charges from driving related drug charges, or DUIDs. If you have been previously convicted of 3 or more drug related driving charges, or a combination of drug and alcohol related driving charges, you are still exposed to the charge of felony DUI. The Colorado DUI statutes make no distinction for an alcohol DUI versus a drug DUI in any circumstance- they are punished in the same manner.
The location of prior offenses is also irrelevant, so long as they occurred in the United States, or a US territory. Out of state offenses are treated the same as offenses received within the state of Colorado and you can be charged with a felony DUI in these circumstances. Even though other states may have differing names or statutes defining an alcohol related driving offense, the Colorado felony DUI law simply looks at whether the prior offense in the other state is the equivalent of an alcohol related driving offense here in Colorado. DUI's that occur in other countries are exempt. Prosecutors generally run a person's nationwide criminal history to ensure that all previous convictions are accounted for.