Felony (DUI & DWAI)
Colorado, like the vast majority of states, has a felony DUI law. Since June 1, 2015, drivers who are convicted of a fourth DUI are looking at possible multi year jail sentences and six figure fines. In addition, as of August 9th, 2017, Colorado's felony DUI law was amended to establish minimum jail sentences for individuals convicted of a fourth DUI.
Obviously, if you are looking at a fourth DUI charge in Colorado, you should also be looking to hire an experienced attorney. Even with the new minimum sentences, there are a wide range of potential penalties that a court can impose under Colorado’s felony DUI law. An experienced Colorado DUI attorney will use the law and the circumstances surrounding your case to lessen the severity of the effects that come from a fourth DUI arrest.
Potential Penalties Under Colorado’s Felony DUI Law
Before June 2015, a fourth DUI conviction in Colorado, while serious, was treated the same as a third conviction. As long as the DUI didn't result in an accident that caused serious bodily injury or death, the maximum penalty was one year in jail and a fine of $1500.
As indicated above, Colorado’s felony DUI law completely changed this situation by making the potential penalties for a fourth conviction much more serious. Now, a fourth DUI conviction is punishable by up to six years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines. By way of comparison, a person convicted of a fourth DUI who was driving with a blood alcohol level just above the legal limit now faces the same potential penalties as a person who caused serious injuries while driving under the influence.
Specifically, Colorado’s felony DUI law includes the following:
- In terms of previous convictions counting towards the fourth strike necessary for a felony DUI, Colorado counts both in state and out of state DUI convictions.
- Not only do DUI convictions count towards the fourth strike, so do convictions for driving while impaired, vehicular assault and vehicular homicide.
- Felony DUI cases are tried in District Court, not in the County Courts where misdemeanor DUI cases are heard.
- Beginning August 9th, 2107, if you are convicted of felony DUI and sentenced to probation, the judge must take one of the following actions:
- Require the defendant to serve at least 90 days but not more 180 days in jail. This mandatory jail sentence cannot be reduced by any good-time deductions. However, the defendant will receive credit for any time served in custody prior to conviction
- If there are alternative sentencing programs in the county where the defendant is imprisoned, require the defendant to serve at least 120 days but not more than two years in jail. Again, this mandatory jail sentence cannot be reduced by any good-time deductions. However, the defendant will receive credit for any time served in custody prior to conviction.
- In addition, the court must also make the following conditions of probation:
- At least 48 hours but not more than 120 hours of community service
- Completion of a level II alcohol and drug driving safety education or an alcohol and drug treatment program at the defendant's expense.
In sum, even though studies have shown that treatment is a more effective way to reduce DUI offenses than incarceration, Colorado has chosen to punish DUI recidivism with felony-level prison sentences.
Felony Penalties Are Not The Only Option For A Fourth DUI Conviction
It is important to realize that a years-long prison sentence is not mandatory for a fourth DUI conviction. The court is given a wide range of choices when it comes to the penalties it imposes. That being said, judges tend to impose jail time greater than the minimum required sentence when it comes to a third DUI conviction.
When considering sentencing in a felony DUI case, judges consider the following factors:
- Whether jail is a suitable option considering the circumstances surrounding the case
- Whether the defendant is willing to participate in an alcohol and drug treatment program and whether that participation is likely to succeed
- Whether a shorter prison sentence presents an unacceptable risk to the safety of the public.
Felony DUI charges in Colorado must be taken seriously. The above factors that impact on potential sentencing are very subjective and can vary from case to case and judge to judge. If you are facing a fourth DUI charge, you can be looking at a life changing prison sentence unless you have an experienced Colorado DUI attorney, like Ann Toney, in your corner aggressively fighting for your interests. Ann Toney is an expert in Colorado DUI laws, and her practice focuses solely on DUI and DWAI cases. Contact her for a free, confidential consultation at 303-399-5556, or through her online contact page.