Ding Dong the DUI Felony in Colorado is Dead

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Like the miserable witch in the Wizard of Oz, the Bill to make DUI a Felony is Dead! Many States have laws that make habitual DUI offenders subject to felony penalties. Fortunately, Colorado is not one of those States.

DUI is a complicated and commonly misunderstood crime. It is complicated because the line between a person who has had alcoholic beverages but who is not committing a DUI is difficult to determine. Even for people who are trained to make such determinations, when a person is right on the line of a DUI, it is very easy to determine that a person who smells of alcohol must be intoxicated. This is clearly not the case, especially in Colorado, where the legislature had to create a new crime, called DWAI, because so many people who were being arrested did not fall into the DUI category after taking a blood or breath test.

DUI is also complicated because it often involves a person with an addiction who may be trying to drink moderately. In a number of cases, there may be a person who was an alcoholic with previous DUIs who has learned how to control his drinking. As soon as this person gets pulled over, the police officer is going to see his criminal history and assume that he is more intoxicated than he probably is. Then, to defend the officer’s accusations, the defendant is left to defend a case based on officer “observations” that he was more intoxicated than he actually was. To make matters worse, the jury is going to hear about how he has been found to be a drunk driver on previous occasions. This is, quite simply, an unfair process for a person who has learned to control his drinking despite a rocky past. To label this person a felon is quite simply unconscionable.

Also, we do not need to be paying $36,000+ a year to keep an otherwise non-criminal person in prison with sex offenders and murderers because that person has an alcohol addiction. That person needs treatment not the most severe punishment, next to death, that we have to offer in our society.

The public needs to understand that when a person is accused of DUI, no one has gotten hurt, and no one has died. If that were the case, the person would already be facing felony charges and would be looking at serious prison time for the felony offenses or vehicular assault or vehicular homicide. There is no additional benefit created by turning a misdemeanor traffic offense into a felony because of “speculative outcomes.” DUI should not be a felony because a person “could have” died. Or because someone “could have” been hit. If someone were hit, it would already be a felony. If someone did die, it would already be a felony. When someone doesn’t hit a person but is merely possibly under the influence of alcohol that do not need to be in prison because people like to speculate.

The Felony DUI has no place in Colorado and thankfully the Colorado Legislature agreed. DUI is big business for the Courts, DA offices, and the Police Officers. They are a huge source of funds for the court. Police officer and DA promotions depend on convictions, so there is a huge incentive to bend the truth. The DUI laws are written to be incredibly flexible to make convictions easier and the state pays for huge advertising campaigns to bias juries against DUI offenders. The deck is already stacked against the innocent person defending the DUI charge. To make him have to defend a felony as well is unnecessary and unfair.


The information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as the creation of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney.

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Nathaniel has worked in criminal law on both sides of the aisle spending time working for the prosecution as well as the defense. Most recently Nathaniel has represented individuals in violent felonies and drug cases. Prior to this work, Nathaniel handled DWIs, Domestic Violence Cases, Property Crimes, and White Collar Crimes. On the prosecutorial side, Nathaniel has most notably worked in Bosnia helping to prosecute individuals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Bosnian War from 1993-1995. In particular, Nathaniel helped in the prosecution of military leaders who arranged for the organized murders and rapes of innocent civilians in various towns in Bosnia. Nathaniel is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Northwestern University, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Google Profile: Nathaniel Baca