Denver Post finds new felony DUI law leads to ‘wildly’ different sentences

Deputy Moore of the Court Services Division stands inside of a Denver Sheriff's Department prisoner transport bus. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)police; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite
Deputy Moore of the Court Services Division stands inside of a Denver Sheriff's Department prisoner transport bus. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) police; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite
Deputy Moore of the Court Services Division stands inside of a Denver Sheriff’s Department prisoner transport bus. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

DUI convictions in Colorado result in radically different sentencing under the a new felony DUI law, a year-long investigation by the Denver Post found.

The law that went into effect August 5, 2015 makes fourth and subsequent DUI offenses felonies. Proponents of the legislation say the law is a long overdue attempt at aligning Colorado with the 45 other states that already have felony DUI laws. Critics argue that since the new law fails to impose mandatory incarceration for fourth offenders, it allows for the possibility that criminals will again take to the streets.

Under the previous law, offenders with three or more misdemeanor DUIs served a mandatory sentence of 60 days or more in jail. For third time offenders, the law still applies. But the new law does away with mandatory jail or prison time for fourth-time offenders and leaves significant discretion to the judge when determining whether or not to impose any incarceration time.

For its investigation, the Denver Post reviewed a year of felony DUI cases, 316 in total. The investigation found that about 48 percent of felony DUI convictions resulted in jail time and about 30 percent resulted in a prison sentence. The remainder incurred work-release programs, probation or time spent in a halfway home. About 8 percent served no time at all.

Officials don’t agree on whether a minimum sentence should be imposed for fourth time offenders, but the law does seem to be having some sort of effect, the Denver Post reported.

Since it passed in August 2015, DUI citations have dropped by more than 20 percent across the state from 2014 to 2015, according to statistics from the Colorado State Patrol. Arrests are projected to keep falling through 2016.

Multimedia business & healthcare reporter Chloe Aiello can be reached via email at caiello@denverite.com or twitter.com/chlobo_ilo.

Subscribe to Denverite’s newsletter here.