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Update: Felony DUI bill's dead and ACLU says that was the right call

Categories: Politics

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Update: Earlier this week, we reported about legislation that would have established a felony DUI law in Colorado, as well as the arguments in favor of the bill made by Mother's Against Drunk Driving; see our previous coverage below.

In the end, however, the measure fell short, and a representative of Colorado's ACLU affiliate believes that was the right call -- because, in the organization's view, felony DUI laws are ineffective.

Denise Maes, the ACLU's public-policy director, doesn't want anyone to think the ACLU shrugs off the seriousness of the issue. "I want to underscore that I totally understand the cause that the sponsors of the bill were trying to address," she says. "Drunk driving on our city streets and state highways is clearly a problem. But nationwide, we have seen that felony DUI bills are not the answer."

Why not?

"We don't see any fewer drunk-driving arrests or accidents in states that have felony DUI laws compared to those that don't," Maes replies.

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Denise Maes.
That's not to mention the expense. Indeed, the bill died in the Senate Appropriations committee, where the high price of switching DUIs from misdemeanors to felonies was highlighted.

Not that cost was the primary motivator for the ACLU's opposition. "If it's not money well-spent -- if it's not effective in solving the problem -- we're better off diverting those resources into areas that are more effective."

In her view, "there's a lot more the state can do to curtail drunk driving as opposed to criminalizing the issue." She cites as examples increased emphasis on treatment, more checkpoints intended to identify drunk drivers before they can harm anyone and targeted investigations aimed at bars with a record of allowing customers to drink excessively and then climb behind the wheel.

Most states have felony DUI bills on the books, and despite those damning stats, Maes doesn't expect a slew of repeals, since it would be easy for political opponents to make legislators who take such a step look soft on drunk driving. "But just because a majority have these laws doesn't make them good public policy," she argues. "Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean it's a good answer."

With the bill dead and the session in the books, Maes is hopeful that other solutions can be found. "We'd like to get together with other relevant stakeholders, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, victims-rights advocates and law enforcement, and craft something that makes a little more sense," she says.

Continue for our previous coverage, including photos and MADD statistics.

Original post, 8:50 a.m. May 5: Against the backdrop of shocking cases like Alton Kirkland's alleged hit-and-run this weekend, which is suspected to have been alcohol-related, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is lobbying hard on behalf of House Bill 14-1036, which would create a felony DUI law in Colorado -- one of just four states that don't have such legislation on the books, MADD maintains.

In a letter to Senate President Morgan Carroll, MADD National President Jan Withers presents a slew of stats to bolster her argument in favor of the legislation (which has already passed the state House), including organization numbers from 2011-2012 about deaths, arrests, costs and more. Continue to see the photo-illustrated figures, as well as Withers's letter and the bill.

Drunk driving fatalities (.08 BAC or higher):

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133 in 2012, representing 28% of all total traffic deaths

Note: This total marks a 17 percent decrease from the previous year.

DUI arrests:

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25,385 in 2012

DUI refusals (the number of people who refused to submit to a blood, breath or urine test):

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7,309 in 2012

Continue for more drunk-driving-related figures about Colorado, plus two original documents.


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129 comments
Tacha Grenier
Tacha Grenier

I think if its your 2nd or 3rd it should def be addressed and not just a slap on the hand and some classes!

Don Martinez
Don Martinez

They eventually kill innocent people. Maybe if they kill lawmakers's and judge's kids and family it won't be ok to drink and drive?????

Gail Lucinda Madrid
Gail Lucinda Madrid

Smdh!! 2nd offense should b all u get thats even more than called for put their alcoholic asses in prison itll dry em out n giv em something to think about! Wtf is really goin on ? Doesn't help either when ur govenor luvs beer! Pince` vavosso!

Jayson Degroot
Jayson Degroot

Felonies on DWI is extreme. That classifies one with rapists and murderers. You lose your lively hood because of that classification. Injury cases should be met with a severe penalty though.

Heaven Northrop
Heaven Northrop

I used to work at a thrift store where many people did community service. The same handful of people would come again and again after racking up 3 and 4 DUI charges. Ridiculous. We want to live. I drive around with small children in my car. We all want to make it home in one piece. I want everyone on the road to arrive safely at their destination.

John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin

Everyone is impaired. All day every day. And guess what , ur girlfriend will be sucking some cop's dick to get out of her next one.

Joshua Tangye
Joshua Tangye

I'm an idiot and you are online making statements about taking the law into your own hands. God help anybody who runs into you. Your comment is downright scary .

Stephen Barbieri
Stephen Barbieri

Quit giving worthless POS illegals drivers licenses, and start deporting all of them

John Elliott
John Elliott

Please. Report me. It'll be good for a laugh since I've made only a general statement and not a specific threat or demonstrated any actual intent. You, sir, are an idiot.

John Elliott
John Elliott

Bullshit, through and through. Your conspiracy nutjob "reasoning" why DUIs should be identified and prosecuted is the epitome of idiotic. Sure, let's let someone who is functionally impaired operate a 3000lb+ vehicle on public roadways where literally thousands of other people work, ride, walk, drive, etc. Let's not penalize them at all for fucking up someone else's life - or ending it. What special kind of fucktard are you?

John Elliott
John Elliott

Know what's ridiculous? Some dumb fuck getting behind the wheel of a vehicle when they're impaired and ruining someone else's life through their own selfish actions. No one MAKES anyone get drunk and then operate a vehicle. The ONLY culpability lies with the driver, no one else, period.

John Elliott
John Elliott

If you choose to drink to the point where you would get a DUI were you driving/operating a vehicle of any sort, then be sure to stay away from me

John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin

I am sorry to hear what happened to you. But the DUI laws aren't about saving lives or making citizens safer . They are about Government controlling people and stealing their money. It is organized crime. Organized by insurance companies, treatment centers (which are traded on the NY stock exchange ), privatized prisons, lawyers and the courts. They all get a cut. And the Senator and Rep.s that get to pretend they are good people for making us 'safer '.

John Pinnick
John Pinnick

I still say all automobiles should have an alcohol sensor installed in it, eliminating the possibility of a drunk driver. It's a privilege to drive, not a right. The problem is, the government wouldn't make any more revenue on DUI's if this policy was implemented.

Kedhrin Gonzalez
Kedhrin Gonzalez

a felony for a DUI is overkill. Hurting someone with while DUI is another thing.

Heather Quinby
Heather Quinby

I take it you've never lost a loved one due to a drunk driver... have you been in a coma for a month after a drunk driver hit you head on leaving you to learn how to walk, talk, write and eat all over again? Probably not. I don't support prohibition of any drug or alcohol but driving under the influence is reckless and there should be laws against it that are enforced.

Ross McAfee
Ross McAfee

I strongly agree with David Judd. Raise the limit or tier the punishment, but the thought of handing out felonies to a .09 is ridiculous. Punish the drivers swerving & risking lives

John Elliott
John Elliott

Guess we'll need to take the law into our own hands if a DUI driver causes harm to us or a loved one...

A-stitch Saves Minds
A-stitch Saves Minds

As a retired paramedic, I've picked up thousands of alive & dead bodies caused by drunk drivers. Every one of the accidents could have been avoided. You willingly get behind the wheel drunk, you are saying that you chose to cause an accident. Maybe not today, but it will happen.

David Judd
David Judd

Or put in controls that you have to blow over a certain limit, like a .20, multiple times to receive a felony

David Judd
David Judd

Raise the legal limit first then you could make it a felony, but the possibility of getting a felony for blowing a .09 twice would be ridiculous

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

The punitive crowd was not appeased, well done.

John Mccall
John Mccall

Bad news for the people of Colorado. We are one of only 4 states without a DUI felony law. Who are the folks that bought off our legislators? Idiots, all of them!!

Margaux Milchen
Margaux Milchen

I agree with Ms. Maes..there are other things that can be done. Kim R. ...she didn't cause the bill to fail.

Kim Robinson
Kim Robinson

Wait until something happens that directly affect her!!!

Monkey
Monkey

The ACLU recommends "more checkpoints"? That's strange.

gary.holley
gary.holley

We do not need more or tougher laws. We need a system that looks at the individual. I have spent nearly a year in court watching a friend being prosecuted and humiliated for a crime not committed. I have seen police lie and DA's make up stories to suit the needs of the case and other cases. My disgust is absolute, over the years period I have come to realize - they are not seeking the truth and thats not justice. I drive (and always have) with the realization and knowledge that someone can hit and kill me due to drinking, texting or just being dumb. It is my choice to continue driving. If it's news to you that you can die driving your car to work at 55mph then you are likely the dumb one. 

In addition, take a closer look at our society and why we drink or do drugs in the first place and you may come to realize that you are trying to cure cancer with herpes.

Rob Gonzales
Rob Gonzales

Fourth DUI within a ten yr period should be a felony, imho.

David Sabo
David Sabo

They'll give you a dui if you have a sip

David Sabo
David Sabo

Against it....... the law is bullshit and the "system" wants everyone's $$$ you all fuckin know it.

Angie Jo Carmichael
Angie Jo Carmichael

I would not drink. I would never drink and drive. I still believe that people will continue the same behavior regardless of the law.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

Strong words, David. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

Thanks for weighing in, Angie. Much appreciated.

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