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HB10-1184: Citing Cost, Lawmakers Kill Rep. Gardner’s DUI Bill

By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
The House Judiciary Committee Monday killed a bill that would have created a felony offense for repeat drunk drivers over concerns that the measure would cost the state too much money to enforce.
With a fiscal note of $22 million, it was simply too much for lawmakers to back Rep. Cory Gardner’s legislation. The bill died 4-7.
The Yuma Republican introduced the measure after hearing horror stories from constituents who lost loved ones to drunk drivers.
House Bill 1184 would have made it a Class 6 felony for motorists convicted of more than two DUIs. Supporters — including the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council and Mothers Against Drunk Driving — pointed out that a felony sentence would have given prosecutors the ability to seek sentences of as long as 18 months for repeat offenders. The current misdemeanor charge for drunken-driving offenses carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.
Gardner pointed out that an estimated 5,679 Colorado motorists have been arrested for at least three DUIs, another 84 have been stopped as many as 10 times, and another five more motorists have been stopped 20 times for drunk driving.
He pointed out that the state could pay for his legislation by calling for a .59 percent across-the-board cut to state departments
“There’s a way we can pay for this right now and that’s simply by saying, ‘Hey let’s save less than 1 percent in each state agency,’” said Gardner.
Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, chair of the Judiciary Committee, who intends on introducing her own legislation to deal with repeat drunken drivers, said she supported the intention of Gardner’s legislation, but not its price tag — not at a time when the state is facing a shortfall of more than $2 billion.
Levy’s proposal is expected to mandate a jail term of 10 days to a year for a second drunken-driving offense and 60 days to a year for third or subsequent offenses.
The measure would also require probation and incentives for seeking counseling and treatment.
“It’s an issue we’re all very serious about dealing with and I think we’re just looking for the most effective way, and if we had the resources that might be a different story,” said Levy of Gardner’s bill. “But again, part of what I think we need to be doing is making sure that the offenders are under a longer period of court supervision than a Class 6 felony may actually afford.”
Supporters of HB 1184 pointed out that Colorado is one of only four states that doesn’t have a felony DUI charge.
Emily Tompkins, executive director of the Colorado chapter of MADD, said Colorado is “lagging behind” its neighbors when it comes to DUI enforcement. She pleaded with lawmakers to back the measure, but they ultimately caved to fiscal pressure.
“Making a third offense felony will serve as a deterrent and send a stronger message to not only DUI offenders, but also our community and our law enforcement community that we can no longer tolerate repeat offenses and therefore preventable deaths and injuries in Colorado,” said Tompkins.

Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters

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