DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado lawmakers gave initial approval on Tuesday to a bill that would change some DUI offenses from misdemeanors to felonies.
Parent Gail Parish sat before lawmakers on what would have been her daughter’s 24th birthday.
“This is the only real gift I can give my daughter is to be strong for other people other families,” said Parish.
Jenna Breen was killed two years ago by a drunk driver.
That driver was on his third DUI and yet it wasn’t until the fatal crime that he faced a felony.
Colorado is one of only six states where no matter how many times you’re caught driving drunk, it’s a misdemeanor punishable by at most a year in the county jail.
“When he does get out of jail with everything he’s done, and with killing my daughter, if he does it one more time, if he gets one more DUI, guess what? It’s still a misdemeanor,” said Parish.
For the second year in a row Rep. Mark Waller, a former prosecutor, is carrying a bill that would make three DUIs in seven years (or four in a lifetime) a felony.
“At some point the treatment isn’t working. The misdemeanor penalties aren’t enough. We need to have a felony in this state,” said Waller.
The Colorado Defense Bar opposes it.
“I think instead of a felony the resources and what we could be doing is getting these people more rehabilitation and more DUI court,” said a defense bar representative.
Waller counters that hanging a felony over a drunk driver’s head would make it more likely that they will finish treatment.
While the bill would increase prison costs by up to $34 million, Gail Parish feels the cost of doing nothing is far greater.
“Please at least help me give Jenna a birthday present. Her death needs to mean something, it needs to mean change,” said Parish.