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Apr 30

By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado DUI Criminal Defense Lawyer

May 2016 –  A Colorado Criminal Law Felony DUI 2016 UPDATE – In 2015 Colorado joined 37 other states and enacted a Felony DUI Law. But unlike many other states, Colorado’s Felony DUI Law is not time dependent. Most other states limit the felony charge to an accumulation of “priors” that must have been committed within a specific time frame – usually within 3 to 12 years.

Colorado reaches back for an ENTIRE LIFETIME.

There is NO LIMIT as to where and as to when the required three prior convictions occurred. As noted below, this is problematic for the prosecution and presents an opportunity for a Colorado criminal defense lawyer to attack the proffered evidence used by prosecutors to attempt to “prove up” the existence and the status of the prior alleged convictions.

Colorado’s “FOUR STRIKES” Felony DUI Law encompasses DUI convictions from Colorado and from every other state. The three prior convictions can be for DUI, DWAI, vehicular assault, and/or vehicular homicide. All of these convictions and may occurred anywhere in the United States and can be used as priors as long as the crimes would be classified as the same “strike” crimes here in Colorado.

This presents another opportunity for a Colorado criminal defense lawyer to mount a defense to “throw a wrench” into the State’s Felony DUI case.

Throwing A Wrench Into The Colorado Felony DUI Analysis – “Proving Up” The Three Strikes

Colorado DUI enforcement officers are not Detectives. They work the street. They conduct their DUI investigation – make an arrest – issue a ticket – and then move on. Felony DUI cases require much more work. Colorado law enforcement who work classic DUI shifts are not trained – nor can than easily interpret – the kind of complicated and inconsistent national criminal history records that must be navigated before filing a DUI Felony. A criminal history can be a lengthy and complex document spanning many pages – pages that itemize all prior convictions, arrests and court actions for a given person.

There is little uniformity from state to state as to whether a DUI is a conviction – there may be a deferred judgement and sentence (ending in a dismissal) – or a kind of “wobbler” where the prior DUI conviction is wiped from the record based on a variation of a “first offender” law – or some other type of plea bargaining theme. The entries in the state CIC System (Colorado’s is CCIC) – which appear on the NCIC system (the federal criminal record data base) –  are confusing to even the most experienced investigator.

This lack of streamlining of the various state DUI laws offers an opportunity for the Colorado criminal defense lawyer to attack the validity of each asserted prior “strike.” Because there is no single criminal history form in the United States -some states – such as Colorado – that engage in excellent record keeping make it very easy to determine a suspect’s criminal history while others make it nearly impossible to decipher the many inconsistent and repetitive entries.

The “priors” that are used to build the Colorado Felony DUI case have to be convictions, not just DUI arrest, book and release – or plea bargains that drop off a suspect’s record.

One DUI officer from Ft. Collins, put it this way:

“It’s a mess right now. That’s the best way I can describe it as far as trying to figure out criminal histories,… It’s a long process. Each state does it differently. It’s going to take some time.”

Source Jason Pohl Coloradoan

Which Way Will The DUI Arrest Go? – Felony DUI Or Misdemeanor DUI?

There are more than 26,000 DUI arrests a year in Colorado. While many of those arrests, because of multiple priors, may “turn into” a Class 4 Felony DUI with a possible sentence of up to six years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine…unlike a misdemeanor DUI with priors – there is no mandatory jail time.

Also – the felony filing of charges is by no means a guarantee even with 3 or more prior DUI’s on a suspect’s record. While an individual can be arrested based on the “suspicion” of having committed a Colorado Felony DUI – even if the charge is filed – it must be dropped down to a misdemeanor DUI charge if the 3 prior convictions cannot be “proved up.”

It is also critical to note here that – unlike it’s misdemeanor counterparts – DWAI, DUI and DUID, – a Felony DUI conviction may have the kind of impact that will negatively affect the rest of your life. If you are charged with a Felony DUI in Colorado – it is not a time to represent yourself.

Here is a chart that compares penalties for the different alcohol convictions in Colorado:



Just Because You Are Charged With A Colorado Felony DUI – Does NOT Mean A Sentence To Prison

Colorado District Court Judges have the discretion – (the authority) – to decide whether a four or more time offender should be sentenced to prison. Colorado law provides that a Judge:

“must determine that incarceration is the most suitable option given the facts and circumstances of the case, including the defendant’s willingness to participate in treatment.”

A Colorado Judge sentencing in these Felony DUI cases must  make a finding that treatment appears unlikely to work or would present an “unacceptable risk to public safety” before imposing the most extreme felony punishment. It seems apparent at this point – that with effective representation – very few Felony DUI’s will actually result in a sentence to prison (DOC).

Most convicted DUI Felons will serve a combination of alternative, community-based sentences.

A Colorado Criminal Law Felony DUI 2016 – UPDATE

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If, after reading this article, you have questions about your case and would like to consider retaining our law firm, we invite you to contact us at the Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm – 303-627-7777.

Never stop fighting – never stop believing in yourself and your right to due process of law. You will not be alone in court, H. Michael at your side every step of the way – advocating for justice and the best possible result in your case.

H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal DUI Defense LawyerABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at – A Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – 720-220-2277. Attorney H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case.

“A good criminal defense lawyer is someone who devotes themselves to their client’s case from beginning to end, always realizing that this case is the most important thing in that client’s life.”

You should be careful to make a responsible choice in selecting a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – and we encourage you to “vet” our firm. Over the last 30 plus years – by focusing ONLY on Colorado criminal law – H. Michael has had the necessary time to commit to the task of constantly updating himself on nearly every area of criminal law, to include Colorado criminal law and procedure and trial and courtroom practice. H. Michael works hard to get his clients the best possible results in and out of the courtroom. He has written, and continues to write, extensively on Colorado criminal law and he hopes this article helps you in some small way – A Colorado Criminal Law Felony DUI 2016 – UPDATE.

A Colorado Criminal Law Felony DUI 2016 - UPDATE
Article Name
A Colorado Criminal Law Felony DUI 2016 - UPDATE
In 2015 Colorado joined 37 other states and enacted a Felony DUI Law. But unlike many other states, Colorado’s Felony DUI Law is not time dependent. Most other states limit the felony charge to an accumulation of "priors" that must have been committed within a specific time frame - usually within 3 to 12 years.

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If you found the information provided on this webpage to be helpful, please click my Plus+1 button so that others may also find it.