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Sep 05

Colorado’s Felony DUI Law - Revisited One Month After Enactment

Colorado’s Felony DUI Law – Revisited One Month After Enactment

By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado DUI – DWAI – DUID Criminal Defense Lawyer

Colorado’s Felony DUI Law – Revisited One Month After Enactment – After only a month on the books – Colorado law enforcement agencies have already charged more than 24 people under the new felony DUI law.

Colorado’s new felony DUI law went into effect on Aug. 5, 2015. The law requires that a person charged with a felony DUI crime must have at least three prior drunk driving convictions before the charge can be sustained in court.

Colorado criminal defense lawyers are adamant that increasing the punishment for a fourth or more “strike” will not decrease the number of DUIs. What helps prevent drunk driving is comprehensive and thorough intensive alcohol and/or drug treatment not ever more harsh sentences such as prison.

A Review – What Are The Terms Of Colorado’s New Felony DUI Law?

LINKs To the bill and a pdf of the statute.

Basically iHB15-1043 Colorado’s New Felony DUI Law permits the State of Colorado to charge a “fourth strike” – or a new DUI crime as a felony which would be punishable by up to six years in state prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

More specifically – the law provides as follows:

A fourth strike is a class 4 felony if the violation when it occurs:

(1) After 3 or more prior convictions for DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI; vehicular homicide; vehicular assault; or any combination thereof; or

(2) occurs not more than 7 years after the first of 2 prior convictions for DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI; vehicular homicide; vehicular assault; or any combination thereof, if the violation included at least one of the following circumstances:

One or more persons less than 18 years of age were present in the person’s vehicle at the time of the violation;

In committing the violation, the person caused damage or injury to any property or persons;

After committing the violation, the person fled the scene;

or

At the time of the violation, or within 2 hours after the violation, the person’s BAC was 0.15 or higher.

Meeting The Criteria For Colorado’s New Felony DUI Law

HB15-1043 Colorado’s New Felony DUI Law is expected to apply to only a small percentage of the state’s more than 24,000 cases of alcohol impaired driving each year. The state estimates that multiple offenders commit new DUI crimes from 39 to 44 months apart. Notably a review of the DUI cases filed in Colorado demonstrates that – 90 percent resulted in a conviction and 25 percent of those result in a jail sentence.

The Teeth Of Colorado’s Felony DUI Law

The “teeth” of the law – the sentencing provisions – do NOT require mandatory prison sentences.

A Judge sentencing for a fourth DUI conviction has the discretion NOT to impose prison under the law. The law –  § 42-4-130 CRS Driving under the influence – driving while impaired – driving with excessive (and reprinted below) lets the Judge “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” and requires a specific finding that alcohol and/or drug treatment appears unlikely to work or the person being sentenced would therefore present an “unacceptable risk to public safety” in order to impose felony punishment.

The “priors” comprising the first three strikes can be from Colorado or any other state in the union and or U.S. territories.

A Little “Surprise” Under The New Legislation – Increased Interlock Device Requirements

As with all legislative trade offs – another provision of the law requires – if a driver has had his or her driving privileges revoked for certain DUI-related offenses and is required to drive with an interlock device on their car – instead of one year of driving with the device – the law doubles the requirement to a minimum of two years and a maximum of five years.

Colorado’s New DUI Law As Of 2015

§ 42-4-1301. Driving under the influence – driving while impaired – driving with excessive alcoholic content – definitions – penalties

(1) (a) A person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle under the influence of alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, commits driving under the influence. Driving under the influence is a misdemeanor, but it is a class 4 felony if the violation occurred after three or more prior convictions, arising out of separate and distinct criminal episodes, for DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI; vehicular homicide, as described in section 18-3-106 (1) (b), C.R.S.; vehicular assault, as described in section 18-3-205 (1) (b), C.R.S.; or any combination thereof.

(b) A person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle while impaired by alcohol or by one or more drugs, or by a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, commits driving while ability impaired. Driving while ability impaired is a misdemeanor, but it is a class 4 felony if the violation occurred after three or more prior convictions, arising out of separate and distinct criminal episodes, for DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI; vehicular homicide, as described in section 18-3-106 (1) (b), C.R.S.; vehicular assault, as described in section 18-3-205 (1) (b), C.R.S.; or any combination thereof.

(j) For the purposes of this section, a person is deemed to have a prior conviction for DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI; vehicular homicide, as described in section 18-3-106 (1) (b), C.R.S.; or vehicular assault, as described in section 18-3-205 (1) (b), C.R.S., if the person has been convicted under the laws of this state or under the laws of any other state, the United States, or

any territory subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, of an act that, if committed within this state, would constitute any of these offenses. The prosecution shall set forth such prior convictions in the indictment or information.

(k) (I) If a defendant is convicted of a class 4 felony pursuant to this section, the court shall sentence the person in accordance with the provisions of section 18-1.3-401, C.R.S.

(II) (A) Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraph (I) of this paragraph (k), before the imposition of any sentence to the department of corrections for a felony DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI offense, at sentencing or at resentencing after a revocation of probation or a community corrections sentence, the court shall consider all the factors described in subsubparagraph

(B) of this subparagraph (II).

(B) If the court sentences the defendant to the department of corrections for a felony DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI offense, it 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. Additionally, the court shall consider whether all other reasonable and appropriate sanctions and responses to the violation that are available to the court have been exhausted, do not appear likely to be successful if tried, or present an unacceptable risk to public safety.

(d) As used in this section, one or more drugs means any drug, as defined in section 27-80-203(13), C.R.S., any controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18- 102(5), C.R.S., and any inhaled glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor or vapors, as defined in section 18-18-412, C.R.S.

(e) The fact that any person charged with a violation of this subsection (1) is or has been entitled to use one or more drugs under the laws of this state, including, but not limited to, the medical use of marijuana pursuant to section 18-18-406.3, C.R.S., shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this subsection (1).

(f) “Driving under the influence” means driving a motor vehicle or vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, that affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.

(g) “Driving while ability impaired” means driving a motor vehicle or vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, that affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.

(h) Pursuant to section 16-2-106, C.R.S., in charging the offense of DUI, it shall be sufficient to describe the offense charged as “drove a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both”.

(i) Pursuant to section 16-2-106, C.R.S., in charging the offense of DWAI, it shall be sufficient to describe the offense charged as “drove a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs or both”.

(2) (a) A person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle when the person’s BAC is 0.08 or more at the time of driving or within two hours after driving commits DUI per se. During a trial, if the state’s evidence raises the issue, or if a defendant presents some credible evidence, that the defendant consumed alcohol between the time that the defendant stopped driving and the time that testing occurred, such issue shall be an affirmative defense, and the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the minimum 0.08 blood or breath alcohol content required in this paragraph (a) was reached as a result of alcohol consumed by the defendant before the defendant stopped driving. DUI per se is a misdemeanor, but it is a class 4 felony if the violation occurred after three or more prior convictions, arising out of separate and distinct criminal episodes, for DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI; vehicular homicide, as described in section 18-3-106 (1) (b), C.R.S.; vehicular assault, as described in section 18-3-205 (1) (b), C.R.S.; or any combination thereof.

(b) In any prosecution for the offense of DUI per se, the defendant shall be entitled to offer direct and circumstantial evidence to show that there is a disparity between what any tests show and other facts so that the trier of fact could infer that the tests were in some way defective or inaccurate. Such evidence may include testimony of nonexpert witnesses relating to the absence of any or all of the common symptoms or signs of intoxication for the purpose of impeachment of the accuracy of the analysis of the person’s blood or breath.

(c) Pursuant to section 16-2-106, C.R.S., in charging the offense of DUI per se, it shall be sufficient to describe the offense charged as “drove a vehicle with excessive alcohol content”.

(d) (I) It is a class A traffic infraction for any person under twenty-one years of age to drive a motor vehicle or vehicle when the person’s BAC, as shown by analysis of the person’s breath, is at least 0.02 but not more than 0.05 at the time of driving or within two hours after driving. The court, upon sentencing a defendant pursuant to this subparagraph (I), may order, in addition to any penalty imposed under a class A traffic infraction, that the defendant perform up to twenty-four hours of useful public service, subject to the conditions and restrictions of section 18-1.3-507, C.R.S., and may further order that the defendant submit to and complete an alcohol evaluation or assessment, an alcohol education program, or an alcohol treatment program at such defendant’s own expense.

(II) A second or subsequent violation of this paragraph (d) is a class 2 traffic misdemeanor.

(3) The offenses described in subsections (1) and (2) of this section are strict liability offenses.

(4) No court shall accept a plea of guilty to a non-alcohol-related or non-drug-related traffic offense or guilty to the offense of UDD from a person charged with DUI or DUI per se; except that the court may accept a plea of guilty to a non-alcohol-related or non-drug related traffic offense or to UDD upon a good faith representation by the prosecuting attorney that the attorney could not establish a prima facie case if the defendant were brought to trial on the original alcohol-related or drug-related offense.

(5) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 18-1-408, C.R.S., during a trial of any person accused of both DUI and DUI per se, the court shall not require the prosecution to elect between the two violations. The court or a jury may consider and convict the person of either DUI or DWAI, or DUI per se, or both DUI and DUI per se, or both DWAI and DUI per se. If the person is convicted of more than one violation, the sentences imposed shall run concurrently.

(6) (a) In any prosecution for DUI or DWAI, the defendant’s BAC or drug content at the time of the commission of the alleged offense or within a reasonable time thereafter gives rise to the following presumptions or inferences:

(I) If at such time the defendant’s BAC was 0.05 or less, it shall be presumed that the defendant was not under the influence of alcohol and that the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle or vehicle was not impaired by the consumption of alcohol.

(II) If at such time the defendant’s BAC was in excess of 0.05 but less than 0.08, such fact gives rise to the permissible inference that the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle or vehicle was impaired by the consumption of alcohol, and such fact may also be considered with other competent evidence in determining whether or not the defendant was under the influence of alcohol.

(III) If at such time the defendant’s BAC was 0.08 or more, such fact gives rise to the permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol.

(IV) If at such time the driver’s blood contained five nanograms or more of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter in whole blood, as shown by analysis of the defendant’s blood, such fact gives rise to a permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence of one or more drugs.

(b) The limitations of this subsection (6) shall not be construed as limiting the introduction, reception, or consideration of any other competent evidence bearing upon the question of whether or not the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or whether or not the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle or vehicle was impaired by the consumption of alcohol.

(c) In all actions, suits, and judicial proceedings in any court of this state concerning alcohol-related or drug-related traffic offenses, the court shall take judicial notice of methods of testing a person’s alcohol or drug level and of the design and operation of devices, as certified by the department of public health and environment, for testing a person’s blood, breath, saliva, or urine to determine such person’s alcohol or drug level. The department of public health and environment may, by rule, determine that, because of the reliability of the results from certain devices, the collection or preservation of a second sample of a person’s blood, saliva, or urine or the collection and preservation of a delayed breath alcohol specimen is not required. This paragraph (c) shall not prevent the necessity of establishing during a trial that the testing devices used were working properly and that such testing devices were properly operated. Nothing in this paragraph (c) shall preclude a defendant from offering evidence concerning the accuracy of testing devices.

(d) If a person refuses to take or to complete, or to cooperate with the completing of, any test or tests as provided in section 42-4-1301.1 and such person subsequently stands trial for DUI or DWAI, the refusal to take or to complete, or to cooperate with the completing of, any test or tests shall be admissible into evidence at the trial, and a person may not claim the privilege against self-incrimination with regard to admission of refusal to take or to complete, or to cooperate with the completing of, any test or tests.

(e) Involuntary blood test – admissibility. Evidence acquired through an involuntary blood test pursuant to section 42-4-1301.1(3) shall be admissible in any prosecution for DUI, DUI per se, DWAI, or UDD, and in any prosecution for criminally negligent homicide pursuant to section 18-3-105, C.R.S., vehicular homicide pursuant to section 18-3-106(1) (b), C.R.S., assault in the third degree pursuant to section 18-3-204, C.R.S., or vehicular assault pursuant to section 18-3- 205(1) (b), C.R.S.

(f) Chemical test – admissibility. Strict compliance with the rules and regulations prescribed by the department of public health and environment shall not be a prerequisite to the admissibility of test results at trial unless the court finds that the extent of noncompliance with a board of health rule has so impaired the validity and reliability of the testing method and the test results as to render the evidence inadmissible. In all other circumstances, failure to strictly comply with such rules and regulations shall only be considered in the weight to be given to the test results and not to the admissibility of such test results.

(g) It shall not be a prerequisite to the admissibility of test results at trial that the prosecution present testimony concerning the composition of any kit used to obtain blood, urine, saliva, or breath specimens. A sufficient evidentiary foundation concerning the compliance of such kits with the rules and regulations of the department of public health and environment shall be established  by the introduction of a copy of the manufacturer’s or supplier’s certificate of compliance with such rules and regulations if such certificate specifies the contents, sterility, chemical makeup, and amounts of chemicals contained in such kit.

(h) In any trial for a violation of this section, the testimony of a law enforcement officer that he or she witnessed the taking of a blood specimen by a person who the law enforcement officer reasonably believed was authorized to withdraw blood specimens shall be sufficient evidence that such person was so authorized, and testimony from the person who obtained the blood specimens concerning such person’s authorization to obtain blood specimens shall not be a prerequisite to the admissibility of test results concerning the blood specimens obtained.

(i) (I) Following the lawful contact with a person who has been driving a motor vehicle or vehicle and when a law enforcement officer reasonably suspects that a person was driving a motor vehicle or vehicle while under the influence of or while impaired by alcohol, the law enforcement officer may conduct a preliminary screening test using a device approved by the executive director of the department of public health and environment after first advising the driver that the driver may either refuse or agree to provide a sample of the driver’s breath for such preliminary test; except that, if the driver is under twenty-one years of age, the law enforcement officer may, after providing such advisement to the person, conduct such preliminary screening test if the officer reasonably suspects that the person has consumed any alcohol.

(II) The results of this preliminary screening test may be used by a law enforcement officer in determining whether probable cause exists to believe such person was driving a motor vehicle or vehicle in violation of this section and whether to administer a test pursuant to section 42-4-1301.1(2).

(III) Neither the results of such preliminary screening test nor the fact that the person refused such test shall be used in any court action except in a hearing outside of the presence of a jury, when such hearing is held to determine if a law enforcement officer had probable cause to believe that the driver committed a violation of this section. The results of such preliminary screening test shall be made available to the driver or the driver’s attorney on request.

(j) In any trial for a violation of this section, if, at the time of the alleged offense, the person possessed a valid medical marijuana registry identification card, as defined in section 25-1.5-106(2) (e), C.R.S., issued to himself or herself, the prosecution shall not use such fact as part of the prosecution’s case in chief.

(k) In any traffic stop, the driver’s possession of a valid medical marijuana registry identification card, as defined in section 25-1.5-106(2) (e), C.R.S., issued to himself or herself shall not, in the absence of other contributing factors, constitute probable cause for a peace officer to require the driver to submit to an analysis of his or her blood.

(8) A second or subsequent violation of this section committed by a person under eighteen years of age may be filed in juvenile court.

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Never stop fighting – never stop believing in yourself and your right to due process of law.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at hmsteinberg@hotmail.com – 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.

You should be careful to make a responsible choice in selecting a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – and we encourage you to look at and “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 –

Summary
By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado DUI - DWAI - DUID Criminal Defense Lawyer
Article Name
By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado DUI - DWAI - DUID Criminal Defense Lawyer
Description
- After only a month on the books - Colorado law enforcement agencies have already charged more than 24 people under the new felony DUI law. Colorado’s new felony DUI law ent into effect on Aug. 5, 2015. The law requires that the person charged must have at least three prior drunk driving convictions before they can be charged under the new la
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