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Colorado Proposes Upgrading Repeat DUIs to Felonies

Colorado is considering upping the ante by handing out felonies to repeat DUI offenders. All DUIs are misdemeanor offenses at the moment, but a bill currently under review by the Colorado House Judiciary would elevate a fourth lifetime DUI to a felony. It would also make a third DUI within seven years a felony offense.

Although the revised version of the bill does not contain any mandatory incarceration sentences, a felony conviction could include up to one year in prison. According to the author of the legislation, former House Minority Leader Mark Waller, however, the point is not to “lock more people up, but to encourage treatment options.” That’s why the seven-year time limit is so important; it distinguishes isolated mistakes from serious substance abuse problems.

“You get two DUIs in your twenties and then 25 years later you get your third DUI; maybe that’s not appropriate to have a felony either,” Waller told Denver’s Channel 7 News.

If the law does indeed change, individuals with multiple DUIs to their name will no longer be able to avoid checking “yes” to inquiries about prior felony convictions and the increased penalties could hinder employment prospects, higher education opportunities, entry into Canada and other international ports, and exercising certain political and social rights.

Several states, including Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, and Utah, assign a felony charge to a third DUI conviction (some only if there has been a previous offense within ten years). Over a dozen more states consider a fourth DUI a felony, while Indiana, Minnesota, New York, and Oklahoma often make it a felony after only the second offense. In fact, Colorado is one of just six states that does not presently give out felonies for DUIs.

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