If Colorado's proposed felony DUI bill is made into a law, the punishment for drunk driving will increase significantly. The proposed bill would mean that a fourth DUI conviction would automatically be charged as a felony, making way for stricter penalties.

The law, which has bipartisan support, would be Colorado's first felony DUI law. Currently, this state is among five others who treat DUIs as misdemeanors. And as it makes its way through legislation, there are some crucial facts everyone should know about Colorado's possible felony DUI law:

1. There would be a guaranteed felony for repeat offenders:

The idea is to strongly deter people from driving under the influence by enforcing an elevated penalty for repeat offenders. If the Colorado Felony DUI bill is passed, the fourth charge for a DUI incident would result in a guaranteed felony. The same punishment would be incurred for someone who has had 3 offenses within a 7 year period. Under that circumstance, an individual could be charged with a felony if their case contained any of these aggravating factors:

  • A hit and run incident
  • injury and/or death
  • property damage
  • the accused has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher

2. Offenders would receive a Class 4 Felony Charge:

If the proposed law comes to pass, there would be a dramatic shift from the current misdemeanor DUI charges. In fact, the bill has proposed the level of this felony charge to be classified as a Class 4 Felony Charge. That way, a repeat DUI offender could receive up to 12 years in prison and as much as $500,000 in fines.

3. The bill comes with high costs:

Colorado would have to absorb significant costs of this bill if it comes to pass. Incarcerating offenders would be the majority of the costs, and which experts say could be as much as $14 million on the high end. This cost has been the fueling the argument against this bill proposal.

Though a similar bill proposal died on the Senate floor last year, the current bill has strong supporters who feel that this year is its best chance to pass. With bipartisan support, the bill has passed through the House Judiciary committee. The next step is for it to pass through the House Finance Committee before it voted on by the full House.

photo via Flickr by Jeffrey Smith