Felony DUI bill approved in Senate Judiciary committee

Lars Gesing-- THE COLORADO STATESMAN

The Senate Judiciary committee Tuesday morning unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that would make repeated drunk driving a felony offense in the state of Colorado.

House Bill 15-1043, with Senate sponsors John Cooke, R-Greeley, a member of the Judiciary committee, and Mike Johnston, D-Denver, got a 5-0 nod after several victims of accidents involving drunk driving and their family members had delivered emotional testimony.

Under current law, a DUI is a misdemeanor offense. HB 1043 amends that and makes a fourth such offense a class 4 felony — which could lead to two to six years in prison. Under the proposed language, a repeated DUI also becomes a class 4 felony if the violation occurred within seven years of two prior convictions if either a minor was in the car, the violation caused damage or injury, the defendant fled the scene or if the violator had a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or higher within two hours of the offense.

After a similar bill failed last year over cost concerns, a series of recent deadly accidents involving drunk drivers helps HB 1043’s chances to make its way to the governor’s desk and into law this time around.

In his State of the State address in January, Gov. Hickenlooper had pronounced the passage of a felony DUI bill a key priority of the ensuing session, and he has continued to voice his support for its passage — including via Dave Hall, a lobbyist for the Colorado State Patrol who testified on behalf of the administration at Tuesday’s hearing. Colorado is one of only four states in the union without a felony DUI law.

Click here to read more.