One in Three Colorado DUI Arrests Repeat Offenders
By: Chris Kramer
One in three Colorado drivers arrested for DUI has a previous DUI arrest, according to a study by the Denver Post.
Of the approximately 31,000 drivers arrested each of the last three years for driving under the influence, almost 11,000 were repeat offenders.
The Post’s analysis, which looked at to criminal justice records, court files and extensive data from 2005-2007, found an average of 31,011 DUI arrests each year, of which 10,835 had at least one prior DUI arrest.
In the same three-year span, 5,679 had two or more DUI arrests, 84 had 10 or more, and five had at least 20 previous drunk driving encounters.
Colorado is one of only four states that do not have a felony DUI offense.
Colorado law also includes a less serious Driving While Ability Impaired, or DWAI, category, which is a blood alcohol content, or BAC, greater than 0.05 but less than 0.08. Statistics on DWAI arrests in Colorado were not present in the Post article.
Stronger DUI Punishments
Lawmakers have attempted to strengthen Colorado DUI laws in the past, but their efforts have not been successful in keeping drunk drivers off the road.
A 2004 law lowered the minimum BAC for a DUI from 0.10 to 0.08. Lawmakers have also taken steps to increase jail sentences and stop plea-bargains, in which first time offenders may be able to receive lenience in exchange for a guilty plea.
An attempt to pass a felony DUI law died in Colorado Legislature in 2007 due to budgetary concerns.
In many states, a driver with two previous DUI offenses or with a BAC of 0.20 or higher can face a felony charge, up to seven years in jail and a steep fine. A DUI attorney can help reduce those penalties.
Additionally, Colorado does not set a cap on the number of DUI convictions a person can receive in a lifetime. Many states have increasingly severe penalties for each successive DUI conviction.
Driving On Suspended Licenses
One problem, according to Chip Culter, a Deputy District Attorney in Colorado, is that too many repeat offenders are driving on suspended licenses. "Even if they don't have a license," Culter told the Post, "there's a pattern where some are still going to choose to drive."
Driving under the influence on a suspended license is a felony offense in Colorado. Cutler is currently handling a DUI case against a man with 17 previous drunk driving arrests, according to court records.
Hundreds of people are killed on Colorado roads due to drunk drivers.
"If people continue to drive drunk, it's only a matter of time before they hurt someone," Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson told the Post. "They are a definite and serious risk to the public."
At least 224 drivers have faced charges of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence since 2005, according to the Post article.
More than 1,000 have been accused of causing injury to others while driving drunk. These more severe charges almost always include jail time, with up to 12 years in prison for a vehicular homicide conviction.