1 in 3 DUI arrests repeat offenders
April 26, 2009
DENVER ” A Denver Post analysis has found that about 10,000 drunken drivers arrested in Colorado each year are repeat offenders.
Police arrest roughly 31,000 drunken drivers a year, so about one in three has at least one previous DUI.
The Post examined records of arrests made from 2005 to 2007.
From 2005 to 2007, an average of 31,011 suspected drunken drivers were arrested each year in Colorado, according to statistics from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. An average of 10,835 drunken drivers each year had at least one prior DUI arrest, according to Division of Behavioral Health data from probation-department evaluations of drivers facing DUI charges.
Of those with prior DUIs, 5,679 Colorado had at least three prior offenses, 84 had been stopped for driving drunk at least 10 times and five had more than 20 prior offenses.
“This is out of control, and I don’t know if the general public knows this,” said Carolyn DeVries of Denver, one of 17 members of a statewide DUI task force exploring ways to attack the problem.
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The numbers come a generation after a national crackdown on drunken driving. Colorado legislators made it tougher to plea-bargain drunken-driving cases and increased sentences for both driving while under the influence of alcohol, or DUI, and driving while ability impaired by alcohol, DWAI.
A 2004 law lowered the threshold for DUI, to 0.08 minimum blood alcohol content from 0.10.
But hundreds of people are still killed and injured in drunken-driving crashes each year in Colorado. Since 2005, at least 224 Colorado drivers have been accused of vehicular homicide while driving drunk, and more than 1,000 have been charged with injuring others while driving drunk.
“If people continue to drive drunk, it’s only a matter of time before they hurt someone,” said Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson. “They are a definite and serious risk to the public.”
Finding answers to the problem won’t be easy. Colorado struggles with crowded jails, full court dockets, an overwhelmed probation system and a tight budget.
Colorado is one of four states where the fifth, sixth or 10th DUI charge is not necessarily a felony. There is no limit on the number of drunken-driving charges that an individual can amass in a lifetime.
In many other states, a motorist with three DUI convictions faces a felony conviction and a prison term. An effort to pass a felony DUI law died in the Colorado Legislature in 2007 due to budget concerns.
Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com