Felony DUI Bill Heads to the Governor

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Colorado will soon have a felony DUI law on the books.  On the final day of the legislative session, the Senate passed House Bill 1043 [.pdf] to create a felony DUI for habitual drunk driving offenders. It passed the Senate 34-1.

"There are some holes this legislation is never going to fill, there are family members we’re not going to get back and tragedies we can’t undo," said Senator Mike Johnston (D-Denver), the bill’s sponsor.

Only a handful of states don’t have a felony DUI law. Legislators failed to pass it for several years. Some lawmakers were worried about the costs of incarceration, other legislators wanted to make sure the state provided proper treatments and interventions before giving jail time.

Supporters said this year’s version strikes the right balance. Several lawmakers had their own personal experiences.

“It could be you or it could be your family members,” said Senator John Cooke (R- Greeley), another bill sponsor. Cooke said he was recently in a car accident. “It happened to me about five months ago at 2:30 in the afternoon in the middle of Greeley. A repeat drunk driver turned right in front of me, we went up on the sidewalk, barely missing two pedestrians.”

The Class 4 felony would apply to people after three or more prior DUI convictions. According to a non-partisan legislative analysis of the bill, the state had 24,124 DUI cases last year.

Governor John Hickenlooper also called for the measure to become law during his state of the state address earlier this year.

“We will work with you on a felony DUI law that brings justice to drivers who repeatedly drink and drive.”

It now heads to his desk.