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DUI felony offense not yet fully evaluated for success

Colorado did not have a felony penalty for driving drunk until the legislature passed a law in 2015. Under the law, anyone who is arrested for DUI who already has three or more convictions for that offense on their record will face a felony DUI charge and the possibility of a significant prison sentence. The severity of those prior offenses are generally evaluated at sentencing to determine the severity of the punishment.

Prior to the new law, a DUI conviction in Colorado was a misdemeanor, with a maximum prison sentence of up to one year. Law enforcement agencies generally agree that prior penalties did not go far enough for repeat offenders, and that they now have a certain much-needed flexibility. They point out that accountability must be provided for those who repeatedly violate the drunk driving laws.

It is still an open question, however, whether the new law has been entirely successful as a practical matter. It reportedly has been difficult to determine in all instances whether someone has three or more previous DUI convictions. The state's record-keeping is inconsistent in some respects, and reliance on the reporting of other states has been haphazard. Some who qualify for a felony prosecution may not be charged and others who don't qualify may be charged with a felony.

In the latter instance, the case will proceed as a felony under the Colorado law unless that decision is reversed by the district attorney. While those kinds of uncertainties exist, it is important that the accused obtain an experienced DUI defense counsel to assure that all appropriate defenses are raised throughout the proceedings. An accused defendant who gets strong representation early in the process will have an improved chance of obtaining the best outcome possible under the circumstances.

Source: coloradoan.com, "Felony DUI: Questions linger about Colorado law", Jason Pohl, March 2, 2017

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