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Advocates call felony DUI sentencing into question

Defendants should be able to expect consistent and reliable outcomes from criminal charges no matter where they are charged or which judge they go before. Unfortunately, some claim this is not the case in Colorado. Alleged drunk drivers charged and convicted with violating the state's new felony DUI laws are facing continually different consequences based on who is doing the sentencing.

Before the new habitual-offender law went into place, any defendant accused of committing three or more DUIs could be sentenced to a minimum of 60 days behind bars. While this law has not changed for those who are on their third offense, the consequences for fourth-time offenders are much less clear. Judges can now impose an incarceration sentence based on their own discretion, and few judges seem to be able to agree on just how long a sentence should be for someone on their fourth DUI charge.

Of the 316 individuals who have been sentenced for a felony DUI since Aug. 2015 -- when the law took place -- only 25 defendants served no jail time. However, 78 percent of all of those cases involved some type of time behind bars, while another 22 percent were credited for time served or probation. A recent sentence had another offender serve an eight-day sentence in jail.

For most people facing felony DUI charges, minimizing the potential impact of a conviction is often a main priority. However, many defendants in Colorado struggle to accomplish this task when the real-life consequences seem to vary so wildly. Ultimately, defendants can still be as prepared as possible by creating a strong foundation for their defense by reviewing their charges and related evidence under the careful guidance of their respective counsels.

Source: canoncitydailyrecord.com, "Habitual drunken drivers' sentences vary wildly under Colorado's new felony DUI law", Christopher N. Osher, Sept. 4, 2016

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