Russell Hebets Aug. 16, 2017

In 2015, Colorado passed a law which made a fourth DUI or more a felony offense. By definition, a felony is a crime in which the sentence includes the possibility of prison time. In this case, a felony DUI is punishable by 2 to 6 years in prison. However, despite the seriousness of this mandate, many of those convicted for felony DUI have only received probationary sentences or nominal jail time.

One of the more significant examples of a light sentence for felony DUI occurred in 2016, when an Aurora man, convicted of his 6th DUI, was given probation and community service. The defendant’s blood alcohol level was over three times the limit and he showed little to no remorse or concern about his actions. The prosecution recommended 4 years in prison, but the judge instead sentenced him to a 5 year term of probation without jail. Despite the lengthy term of probation, those who wanted tougher consequences for DUI were outraged. At this point Arapahoe County district attorney George Brauchler called for a closing of this loophole and requiring a mandatory minimum for a felony DUI conviction.

However, just months later, another man was convicted for felony DUI for his 9th run-in with the law which led to a 6 year prison sentence, the maximum required. The disparity in these two sentences, despite the similarities in the cases, highlights the need for equity in the sentences imposed.

Since the felony DUI law was introduced in fall of 2015, 635 people have been convicted of a felony DUI. Of those, 490 have served some jail time in relation to the offense; jail time is usually less than a year. Furthermore, 170 people were also sentenced to prison. About 30% of those convicted get prison time and 8% received no jail time at all. Such stark inconsistencies alarmed lawmakers enough that they decided to close this loophole.

The loophole closure now means that even a person who is sentenced to probation alone must still serve 90-180 days in jail after a plea or finding of guilt for felony DUI. If work release is an available option, then they must serve 120 days to 2 years in jail. Work release allows the individual to continue working while they serve their time. Additionally, they must perform 48-120 hours of community service and they do not qualify for any sentence reduction schemes.

The new sentencing law went into effect on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 and affects cases filed from that date forward.

If you find yourself facing felony DUI charges, and the reality of time in jail or prison, contact us for a consultation to learn how we can help.