DENVER (CBS4)– Emotional testimony at the state Capitol as state lawmakers consider a bill that would put a felony DUI law on the books in Colorado. The bill moved forward after it passed through an important Senate committee on Tuesday.
“I was hit by a six-time drunk driver. I became his seventh,” said one supporter of the bill.
“He had four previous DUIs speeding down Colfax at 80 mph,” said another supporter of the bill.
“At the hearing the driver was convicted of his sixth DUI,” said yet another supporter during testimony.
The bill would make it a felony to drive drunk after a third DUI in seven years or the fourth in a lifetime.
Currently in Colorado, a DUI is not a felony offense unless someone is killed as a result, no matter how many times the driver is caught driving drunk. The charge is always a misdemeanor.
“Why are we only one of five states that hasn’t changed this law to be a felony law,” asked DUI victim Frank Martinez.
Prison would be a last resort, according to how the bill is written. The judge would be required to exhaust all treatment options first.
Among the opponents to the bill, a repeat drunk driving offender and attorneys who represent repeat drunk drivers. They claim better treatment, not prison, is the answer.
“For my story today I just want to let you know that simply intensifying the penalties for DUI is not going to help. We need rehab and help for people who don’t realize they have that alcohol problem,” said one opponent.
Despite $4.5 million in added prison costs, the bill passed committee on Tuesday and will likely make it to the state Senate floor this week.
“At some point, saying ‘Enough is enough’ is not only okay, it is required. And after four years of this discussion, it’s required today,” said Colorado District Attorneys’ Council spokesman Tom Raynes.
Similar bills have been introduced in previous state legislative sessions but this is the farthest any have advanced.
LINK: House Bill 1043