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Some Lawmakers Reluctant To Change Colorado DUI Laws

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DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado has some of the most lenient laws against drunk drivers and some lawmakers are reluctant to change that.

Some believe treatment, not prison, is the answer.

Colorado is one of four states where no matter how many times a person is convicted of a DUI, it’s a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail at most.

Ellie Phipps Oliver went before state lawmakers on Monday with a story of injustice so outrageous it is almost unbelievable.

“I want to do everything and anything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen to somebody else,” said Oliver.

She was hit by a drunk driver with six prior DUIs and nearly died. Oliver underwent 12 hours of surgery, losing six vertebrae and spending a month in intensive care.

“I’ve lost three years of income. I’ve lost my lost my vehicles and my house is on the verge of being repossessed,” she said.

The drunk driver who hit her did not receive a serious punishment.

“He ended up ultimately spending just a couple months in a halfway house in Mesa County,” said Oliver.

Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction; and Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver; are the sponsors of a bill that would make a third DUI in five years our fourth in 15 years a felony.

“It’s beyond the pale when it comes to public safety,” said King.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the bill.

“Drug and alcohol courts are a far better remedy than the criminalization approach,” said an opponent.

But supporters say that for some people treatment doesn’t work.

“When they’ve showed repeatedly over and over again that they’re going to drink alcohol, get in a car, drive, hurt and kill people, then their time is up,” said Oliver.

It is estimated the bill would increase prison costs by $21 million a year.

On Monday it passed the judiciary committee but Democratic leadership in the Senate assigned it to three committees with only two days left in the legislative session, so the bill is likely to die.

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