Just last year, Colorado legislature attempted to pass a bill that would make a third drunk driving offense within seven years, with aggravating circumstances, a felony instead of a misdemeanor. That bill failed to pass due to sticker shock from the Senate's Democratic-led Judiciary Committee.
But for the victims and survivors of drunk driving accidents, it's not over. The state is attempting to pass a similar bill and may be making progress thanks to the heartbreaking words of those impacted by repeat DUI offenders. The bill was approved early February by a 13-0 vote and is now in the hands of the House Finance Committee.
Repeat Offenders Aren't Left to Deal with the Losses
One woman's husband was killed 33 years ago by a drunk driver. The driver responsible for his death had previously been caught drinking and driving four separate times and had his license revoked. Unfortunately, the penalties didn't appear harsh enough to fix the problem.
Several Republicans are in favor of the bill, despite the potentially high cost. Estimated costs of the bill hover between $4 million and $13.5 million annually.
Another woman was hit by a drunk driver and lived to tell about it. But because of extensive injuries and costly healthcare, she lost her business. The driver who hit her was responsible for seven other drunk driving incidents. According to the survivor, he spent a mere three months in jail for his eighth accident.
For a third DUI to be considered a felony, the bill states that the incident must also include injuries or death, a hit and run, or a BAC 0.15 or higher. The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the ACLU oppose the bill outright. These groups are of the opinion that alternatives to prison are more effective for repeat offenders.
At the bill's hearing, numerous testimonies were shared from both victims and survivors alike. One man who lost three loved ones to a drunk driver begged the question of why Colorado is one of just five states that hasn't made DUI a felony.