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Reader: DUI penalties are too harsh

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We recently posted about a call by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to support a bill creating a felony DUI law in Colorado; the initiative failed yesterday. Readers were split on whether the measure was a good idea or not, with some arguing for harsh punishment and others decrying the current system. This reader falls into the latter camp.

Whitney Thrasher writes:

The penalties are already too harsh. I'm still on probation from a DUI I got in 8/12 and I refused all tests. The thing is, alcohol is legal, but the penalties are worse for DUIs than child rapists, etc. If you have to serve jail time for a DUI there is no good time, you don't get off UAs early and they will not let you off probation early either. The mission of the probation offices basically states, they want to help rehabilitate you and make sure you do well, but really they look for every excuse to try and hold you down. Luckily I got a human being for mine, the ones before were just robots enforcing ridiculous laws and lying to my face.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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87 comments
HelmholtzW
HelmholtzW

DUI laws have become akin to the Domestic Violence laws of this country. Nobody can say that drunk driving and domestic violence are not everyday problems that should be addressed and have it's penalties. However, over the last 20 years or so, the laws for both these kind of crimes have been driven to extremes for two main reasons: Those accused, regardless of the facts of each individual case, can be lumped in to two rather unsympathetic categories:  "drunk driver" and "wife beater". That ugly combination allows for prosectors to throw the book with no mercy at otherwise decent, law abiding citizens.

The definition of "Domestic Violence" has been watered down to the point that inulsting someone or hurting their feelings falls withiin the definition and you can really be arrested for it and be labeled an "abuser" and have to go to counseling, etc. You can be thrown out of your home and lose a license to carry a weapon based solely on this. That is an extreme.

A driver who may have had a few drinks but is otherwise operating a motor vehicle in a safe and efficent manner but has the misfortune to be pulled over by a police officer with a chip on his shoulder will go to jail, lose his license and be subject to an array of fees. That is an extreme.

The liberals have completley ruined this country.

maestroanth
maestroanth

The DUI laws (and the law systems in general) is complete bullshit.  I was punched at a party and woke up from being unconscious bleeding profusely without my cellphone or anything and had to drive to the hospital.  I was glad the cop pulled me over and I got sent in an ambulance from there, but still got the DUI ticket.  


I thought the law would take some sort of contingency into the sentencing, but no! The logic is, "injured or not, you were technically intoxicated behind the wheel, so it's a DUI crime" and I had to suffer the same consequences that people who make the recreational decision to drink and drive do.  A year later and with jail-time, community service, UA's, and 10,000$ and people cry they aren't strict enough? They obviously are too innocent and have never gained any empirical wisdom by going through the system to make these judgment calls. 


You can't ruin millions of peoples' lives based on 'what ifs'. Plus, the primary motivation by the system is $$$ and not rehabilitation.  The system I'm sure causes people to just give up and relapse than doing anything helpful.  


I wasn't an alcoholic before, but going through this pathetic system sure made me want to be!

John Wayne Claybaugh
John Wayne Claybaugh

Yes. Invoke jail time! Get people who are in jail unjustly out of there and put the ones who are screwing up our roads in there! I'm tired of drunk drivers!

Nicole Lewk
Nicole Lewk

no. youre putting peoples lives at risk

John Pinnick
John Pinnick

Can't believe Westword even posted this guys comments. Too harsh? Really? I got a DUI over 10 years ago for blowing a .065 when it was .05 for a DWAI and paid the maximum money and time in classes and breath tests, no license for over a year and on and on and on. I haven't and will never drink and drive again and the fact this guy thinks it's too harsh tells me he'll be out drunk driving again, keep your eye out for him.

Fabrizio Siracusa
Fabrizio Siracusa

Not saying that there shouldn't be room for DUI laws, but as the law works currently it's more a money-making enterprise than a way to reduce dangers on the road. Drunk drivers are easy targets and they garner little sympathy, but I doubt that all the people weaving through traffic on I-25 doing 80 miles an hour, cutting in front of me and slamming their brakes, not respecting safety distances are all drunk. There are much more dangerous driving behaviors on the road for which there is too little enforcement. And I was hit twice in 2 years by as many uninsured drivers. I wish penalties for uninsured drivers were as harsh as they are for DUI offenders.

Joe Griffith
Joe Griffith

I agree, but keeping public transportation going later and/or all night costs the city and state money. It would also lower the DUI rate which ALSO costs them much needed money. Why on would they do that. The government loves DUI's because it is an easy source of revenue.

Colin Shimkovitz
Colin Shimkovitz

Your opinion and mine don't matter, most post on these without reading anything else

John Michael Alvarez
John Michael Alvarez

In TN they put a mark on your drivers license after your first DUI and your no longer allowed to drink in bars.

Joe Shepherd
Joe Shepherd

if the politically connected DUI punishment Industry doesn't have more victims , it will not pay for itself , and not have the money to buy politicians

Joe Shepherd
Joe Shepherd

only a public flogging with a 2 year prison term will make people nthink twice before driving drunk , it should be the same as attempted murder

Bernie Shwayder
Bernie Shwayder

I don't think they're too harsh, depending on circumstances I suppose .

Joe Rouse
Joe Rouse

However, Shannon, I agree that if you are a repeat offender, then you're clearly a burden and danger to society. My complaint is more about the guy who has two beers and loses his life because of a cop with a chip on his shoulder, and an out of touch law that totally ignores the spirit in favor of the letter.

Joe Rouse
Joe Rouse

A breathalyzer in every car mandatory? That's insane! Just reading the comments here, I see a serious gulf of understanding regarding the pragmatic role of law enforcement. Honestly, if some of you made laws, violating prohibition would be a death sentence! All I'll say on the matter is thank God I'm rich and no longer in Colorado. If this is the direction you really want your state to go, ban alcohol and drugs. Or better yet, ban cars. I swear, the arrogance of you people!

Shannon Fender
Shannon Fender

And before anyone jumps down my throat for "not all DUI's are alcohol related," I'll note that this is true. However the lion's share of DUI are alcohol related. Also, the judicial process allows for discretion. If you get a DUI for driving too slow from some other kind of drug, you are unlikely to receive the penalties reserved for the worst DUI cases like, you know, vehicular homicide.

Shannon Fender
Shannon Fender

This person does not live in reality. "The penalties for DUI are worse than for child rapists." Uh, no. If you rape a child in this state you go to prison. DUI penalties are usually most painful in their civil aspect. The penalties for risking taking another person's life via DUI are not harsh enough. The bill that died would allow - not mandate - the judicial system to give you a felony if you get caught DUI four times in 5 years or five times in 8 years. Further, according to testimony from law enforcement, the average person who gets a DUI has driven drunk 70 times before getting caught. Seriously? You don't think you deserve a DUI if you are drinking and driving this much? Get a grip on reality, you selfish asshole.

Adam Lopez
Adam Lopez

Let the punishment fit the crime. If someone drives a car and kills someone, the punishment should be extreme, regardless of sobriety. If someone gets a DUI for driving too slowly, causing no damage, the punishment should reflect this. Don't base penalties on what someone might have done, base them on what that person actually did. And if the governments' goal was truly to prevent drunk driving deaths or property damage, all cars would have interlock systems.

Roni Torres
Roni Torres

If you feel like my opinion is too high and mighty for you all I can really say is that sounds like a personal problem. Likewise who are you to judge.

Jerod LaChance
Jerod LaChance

The problem I have with it, is that it disproportionately punishes poorer people. If you're rich and you get a DUI, it's a minor inconvenience. If you're strapped for cash and get a DUI, it seriously screws up your life for years. I think the penalty should be some sort of mandatory jail time or community service or whatever. By making it more and more expensive, it just punishes working people more and more, where a few thousand dollars to people with money doesn't make any more of a difference.

Louis Ruhlin
Louis Ruhlin

Belgium lowered its limit to .05 in December of 1994, reporting a 14 percent reduction in fatalities in the following year. I don't see much encumbering to their society when I visit. Just many more drunk folks on a buss or a taxi queue...

Louis Ruhlin
Louis Ruhlin

Through a friend of a friend, I recently met someone with 6. It looks like this time he will get a year, but with overcrowding and such, I doubt it will be more than a few months.

Rob Payne
Rob Payne

Why do you guys take comments from readers and ask for input, almost as if those comments are news?

Andy Shredlinger
Andy Shredlinger

Another thing Roni, if this argument has been diverted to put downs which is so repressive and is apparently below your standards of communication, then how do you justify calling everyone on this thread ignorant and every single one of the millions of people with DUI's stupid? You are the reason a thread like this gets diverted to put downs! When people like yourself makes such BS statements, people like myself get offended and tend to call you out on it.

Andy Shredlinger
Andy Shredlinger

So Roni... So what makes you so smart and separates you from all the rest of us ignoramus that have posted their comments? So all people that get DUI's are stupid Huh? Please explain more and while you are at it smarty pants, explain how the current system causes people to relapse. I guess I never knew that attending classes much like AA without the religious aspect, MADD, and requiring breathalyzers actually CAUSES relapse.

cseanball
cseanball

I served a lengthy sentence myself. And I am a firm believer that change comes first from within. I turned my entire life around during my years inside. Part of the point of incarceration for a felony is punishment for negative actions. Driving under the influence is arguably one of the more ridiculous things a person can do. As it remains a prevalent issue, perhaps increasing the severity of the punishment will deter some folks. I agree that some level of rehabilitation is necessary, but not that punishment should be overlooked. To utilize an old maxim: don't like the time? Don't do the crime.

Roni Torres
Roni Torres

I just realized I posted this on a panel of ignorant people who apparently don't understand the psychological process of rehabilitation and how the current process lacks that. I think it's good to bring up topics like this in arguments but it's apparent that people don't understand argument and divert to put downs and fallacy which is nothing more than oppressive. Should there be a punishment? Yes absolutely. However if someone truly has a problem with alcohol our current system does NOTHING to help them and actually causes them to relapse. Should we mourn for those who have been killed or hurt by drunk drivers? Yes, but ask yourself if persecution will make it go away.

Roni Torres
Roni Torres

I agree. Nothing about the process is rehabilitating. You're a number you're a failure at life and they do well to make you feel that way. People who claim it should be harsher because people that get DUIs are stupid don't understand the meaning of helping another human out of a tough situation. Rehabilitation is about helping someone change their life and the classes you're required to take are a joke the councilors don't care about you and you are NOT able to be honest and open. The whole system needs to be reformed. But it won't be because it is how co makes it's money

David Costantino
David Costantino

What a joke. Apparently people still can't get the concept of taking responsibility for their actions. You do something stupid and reckless, you pay the price, no matter how much it may be. Our current laws still don't dissuade people from doing it, so obviously the penalties are not harsh enough to really have an effect.

Andy Shredlinger
Andy Shredlinger

I really do believe that breathalyzers in every car would be a fine solution to all this. And Josh saying one beer is ok but .1 limit is too high are contradicting statements. Bottom line is the current system of trying to catch drunk drivers after getting behind the wheel is an outdated law. It doesn't prevent people, particularly young people from drinking and driving. It ruins peoples lives, careers, it wastes time/money, and it causes over 10,000 deaths each year and allows for 30% of all drivers to become involved in a drunk driving accident. I think it is irresponsible for lawmakers to not be working on changing this law.

Tarayn Marissa
Tarayn Marissa

What a whiny writer. I know a boy who got one at 18 and he's sucked it up and paid it all off. That's so young to get it together so quick. This guy is a moron. Now should convictions for child rapists and murders be high? ABSOLUTELY, but that was about his only sound argument. The DUI penalties should not be lessened; they should all be raised.

Gail Beck
Gail Beck

Punishments too hard? Explain that to some people that I knew that have killed someone or almost killed themselves by drinking and driving more than 20 times in a month. Explain why the punishments are too harsh to the families that lost someone due to negligence. You do it, expect no pity from me. Stop blaming everyone and be responsible.

Justin Faloon
Justin Faloon

Stop whining people, if you can't do the time or pay the fine, don't do the crime. It's really pretty simple concept.

Karye Ann
Karye Ann

I absolutely agree with the metabolic rate variation - But also personal responsibility has got to come into play and it often doesn't. For someone like you, perhaps, yes. For me? Definitely. I'm gone on about a quarter of a drink and don't ever have anything and operate a vehicle after. So, yes those things do come into play - What I speak most of, are those who cause accidents, issues and whatnot because they choose to drive without considering or even waiting a half hour to let things metabolize. It is awful to me how many people get away with drunk driving at higher intoxication levels with nothing more than a bit of a financial loss - repeatedly. What the heck!? Emotions? Perhaps, but more, if I can be mature about it, and you can't, than the punishment needs to be more severe in order to perhaps squelch it next time. And loss of a license - period after multiple (2) DUI's. I'm not a big government person - but there has got to be a better way to deal with people who continually put others in danger as these fools do.

John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin

I would love to follow the people who make these strong 'holier than thou' statements around for a week. Guarantee they are breaking laws left and right. In Colo. , we drink and drive - we always have and we always will.

Andrea Salazar
Andrea Salazar

What's harsh is losing you're mother to a drunk driver. Now that was harsh.

Kimberly Rosen
Kimberly Rosen

I actually don't drink Josh, but someone having two or three beers and spending the next year or more in classes and court is ridiculous. And yes, there is an entire industry around this and pushing for more.

John Elliott
John Elliott

How about DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE, you stupid c*nts?

Joe Rouse
Joe Rouse

The law is extreme and asinine. A DUI is a career death sentence for most people, and a gross lack of viable transportation options just means people will continue to drink and drive while avoiding cops. Tougher laws isn't saving lives; it's encumbering our society. Now I'm all for stopping drunk driving, but perhaps we should try the carrot instead of the stick? How much would it cost to cab these people home versus the social and tax payer costs of criminal proceedings? If you increase the punishment, people will take more extreme measures to avoid being caught. If you give them an option, they may make the right choice and we'll all sleep better.

sixtwentysix
sixtwentysix

Know what else is harsh? Getting hit by a drunk driver. 

Josh Bradley
Josh Bradley

I agree wholeheartedly. I like to go out but I'm too paranoid to drive even after one beer (had a close call after being pulled over a few years ago, I wasn't drunk but it definitely scared me) and taxis are ridiculously expensive. Yes cheaper than a DUI but that's not enough incentive to keep people from driving. I can take the light rail to go dt to drink but getting home from the light rail station is a problem when it's late.

NeedzMoarCowbell
NeedzMoarCowbell

I don't know that the penalties are too harsh so much as the limits are too low.  0.08% BAC is about the same level impairment as talking on your cell phone, which doesn't warrant this level of punishment.  0.05% (DWAI) is just plain ludicrous.


We should focus on genuinely drunk drivers, who are a real problem, not everybody who may have had a drink with dinner.  MADD is a neo-temperance movement.

Josh Bradley
Josh Bradley

Really? 0.08 is a little low? Do you not unfriend how many people are completely toast at 0.08? Or did i misunderstand your post?

seancashmere
seancashmere

Hi John,


Like "drunk drivers" how about all the other drivers that engage in so called "what if" crimes? This morning I saw a girl see a light change yellow. She was still maybe 100 yards from the intersection. She gunned it and completely ran a red light. She could have killed people. She could have ruined several cars. What if? Should she too sit in jail on the tax payer's dime? Be subjected to ridiculous fines on top of fines? Sit in a 12 hour red light class?


How about the folks going 5 mph over the speed limit? I'm sure speeding kills far more people in this country than drunk drivers. Should the person doing 5 mph be thrown in jail? What if they lose control of their speeding vehicle and ruin several lives? Speeding class and hefty fines!


I urge you to rethink your position. Throwing someone in jail introduces them to other inmate that harbor resentment and contempt for the law. It also disenfranchises them and puts them in financial peril. When they are released, they are maladjusted and can do little to contribute to our economy. I don't blame you for your ignorance, but maybe you should take a psych 101 course over at your local community college. One of the first things you'd learn is that punishment doesn't work. Positive reinforcement, however, does indeed work. A better solution, if you really think that drunk driving is the scourge MADD paints it as, is to incentivize sober driving. For every year a DUI convict goes without another DUI, they should receive $500 until year 20 when they'll have been reimbursed for the entire $10,000 the DUI cost them. Who would risk losing all that money? Sure, in 20 years, the $10K won't be worth what it was when you paid all those fees and fines, but it's still enough to incentivize you to teetotal. Right? If we really cared about getting potentially drunk people off the road, wouldn't we spend the money? I heard that MADD rakes in $48 million a year. Shouldn't they use it for something that works? I hear 1.5 million Americans are arrested each year for a DUI. Plus, all the fees collected and this is economically feasible. Plus, it will work, so the paying public would not mind... if not having drunk drivers on the road is what this is really about.


What this really turns out to be about though, is a money grab for municipalities and a quest for vengeance for loved ones lost at the hands of drunk drivers. So MADD lobbies for revenge sentencing and not to effect real change. Get off your high horse and give the matter some real thought instead of the knee-jerk, fearful reaction of jail time.

garydenver
garydenver

Clearly you are perfect and never made a mistake in your life.

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