Colorado Jury Convicts Drunk Driver of Felony DUI for 1st Time
Last year Colorado raised the stakes for drunk drivers by creating a Felony DUI category. Before May of 2015, the state was one of just five that kept charging repeat drunk drivers with misdemeanors. The other forty-five drew the line at some number – usually three or four – and made further DUIs a felony.
For those not up on how degrees of punishment work: when a misdemeanor ressults in a jail term, it is served in a local or county jail. In Colorado those terms can be for up to 18 months.
Felons are sent to state prison. In Colorado felony prison terms are at least a year.
There are 6 classes of felonies in Colorado, ranging from Class 1 (e.g. first degree murder), carrying a sentence of life imprisonment, to Class 6 (e.g. possession of a controlled substance).
A fourth drunk driving conviction is a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 2 to 6 years imprisonment and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000. Other Class 4 felonies include sexual assault, criminal conspiracy, and manslaughter.
And now an offender has been convicted at trial on a felony DUI charge in Colorado for a fourth offense. Matthew Allen faces up to six years in prison and a fine that could reach a half million dollars.
More than 300 drunk drivers have been convicted of felony DUI since the law took effect a year ago August, but Allen is the first one to be found guilty by a jury.
The real story here isn’t Allen, and isn’t even the 300-plus other drunk drivers that have met with serious punishments. It’s the trend toward taking drunk driving seriously, a trend that Colorado has joined and which has resulted in saved lives. 28 states now require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders. Many states suspend licenses immediately upon arrest for drunk driving, and impound the vehicles of drunk drivers. These and other measures are vital in order to bring down the number of alcohol-related road deaths in the country.
It’s just one driver, and one sentence. But it means that Colorado is watching out for its citizens.