Harsher penalties for repeat Colo. DUIs rejected | SummitDaily.com

Harsher penalties for repeat Colo. DUIs rejected

DENVER – People who are repeatedly caught drinking and driving will not face mandatory jail time after a Colorado commission studying the issue rejected the proposed penalty.

The decision Friday prompted Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to declare it “a banner day for traffic offenders.”

The rejected proposal would have made jail mandatory for people on second and third DUI convictions. The commission had supported a similar proposal in October but members decided to retool the language. In anticipation of a proposal, the commission had also supported lessening the penalties for other driving offenses to clear jail space for repeat DUI offenders.

In the end, it may have all gotten too convoluted, said one commission member.

“I’m guessing it failed partly out of confusion,” said state public defender Douglas Wilson, who voted no on the proposal. He said he was tired of seeing the panel go back and forth on recommendations it had already approved.

Defense attorney David Kaplan argued that judges should have discretion over sentencing depending individual circumstances.

Two years ago, Gov. Bill Ritter and the Legislature created the panel, called the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. It was charged with making recommendations on criminal sentences.

Colorado is one of seven states where traffic deaths related to alcohol increased from 2007 to 2008, the U.S. Department of Transportation said this week. The Denver Post has been reporting about drunken drivers in Colorado in the last year, finding that about a third of those convicted in fatal DUI crashes served less than two years in jail.

The newspaper also reported that about 30 percent of people accused of vehicular homicide involving alcohol had prior DUI cases since 2005.

Adams County District Attorney Don Quick told the 20-member commission that repeat DUI offenders “are the most dangerous guys on the road.”

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