(Feb. 5) – The House Judiciary Committee took the first step in a crackdown on drunk driving in Colorado tonight, voting unanimously to put repeat DUI offenders in prison.

Current Colorado law treats every conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as a misdemeanor. HB15-1043, with the bipartisan sponsorship of Reps. Beth McCann, D-Denver, and Lori Saine, R-Firestone, would make a person’s fourth DUI or DWAI (driving while ability impaired) conviction a Class 4 felony punishable by two to six years’ imprisonment, with a probation-treatment combination continuing to be an option.

A third DUI within seven years would subject the offender to possible community correction, including residential treatment, and could be charged as a felony if any of several aggravating factors are involved. A second DUI would require the offender to have an ignition interlock device installed in his or her vehicle.

“At some point, enough is enough,” Rep. McCann told the committee. “We just cannot continue to allow people who are that intoxicated to drive on our streets because of the incredible damage that they can cause.”

Statistics show that roughly three out of four first-time DUI/DWAI offenders will reoffend within three years, and that about a third of the crashes, deaths and injuries attributable to drunk drivers come from repeat offenders.

The bill’s next stop is the Finance Committee, which will have to account for the estimated cost of the bill – at least $4.7 million a year by the time the law would be fully in effect.

“It’s time to take action to make our roads safer for all Colorado drivers,” Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, said after she voted for the bill. “My greatest concern is that spending restrictions written into our constitution will prevent proper enforcement if, or when, this law goes on the books.”

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