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New Colorado law increases already harsh penalties for DUI

It seems that with each passing year, laws concerning impaired driving become harsher. Penalties for DUI increase with public outcry for safer highways. While Colorado was already considered among the strictest states for dealing with impaired driving, lawmakers recently passed new legislation -- making things even tougher.

A 2015 law reclassifed any DUI offense after three or more prior convictions as a Class 4 felony. However, the new felony classification eliminated the mandatory jail sentence previously in place for fourth convictions. Instead, a judge could sentence an offender to up to six years of prison, but only after determining prison to be the most suitable option after considering factors such as the offender's willingness to participate in treatement and whether all other reasonable and appropriate sanctions have been exhausted. In other words, someone facing a third offense may receive the mandatory one year in jail, but someone convicted for a fourth DUI might avoid incarcertation depending on the circumstances.  However the fourth time offender would nevertheless be a convicted felon.

The new law attempts to balance the penalties for DUI convictions. Now, under the bill just signed into law, those convicted of a fourth offense will go to jail for up to 180 days with no reprieve for good behavior. If someone is convicted of a fourth DUI while serving probation for a third offense, that driver will spend up to two years in jail. No suspension of community service will be permitted, and the driver will be obligated to pay for alcohol treatment program.

Of course, a conviction for DUI depends on the strength of the case presented by prosecutors to the fact-finder (jury or court). Avoiding a conviction may require challenging evidence such as field sobriety tests, breath or blood tests and perhaps the stated reasons for the traffic stop itself. Even a first offense for impaired driving may lead to consequences that will negatively impact one's life in many different ways, so having legal representation as early as possible after an arrest is always in a Colorado driver's best interest.

Source: summitdaily.com, "DUI will do you in, as Colorado cracks down with tougher sentencing," Randy Wyrick, July 10, 2017

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