A long-rejected bill that will increase consequences for drunk drivers in Colorado has finally passed through the Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk for approval. CBS Denver reports that the bill, House Bill 1043, passed through the Senate last Wednesday, and Governor John Hickenlooper has said that he will sign it.
In Colorado, the legal limit of blood alcohol content for drivers over the age of 21 is 0.08%, and 0.02% for drivers under the age of 21. Colorado is one of about seven states in the U.S. that do not have felony DUI charges, no matter how many DUIs a person is charged with.
House Bill 1043 makes a driver’s fourth DUI a felony charge that can result in a prison term between two and six years. Additionally, a second DUI charge would result in a driver having to blow into a breathalyzer test before being able to start a car for as many as five years.
The first bill like this one was introduced some 10 years ago, but saw opposition from the start. Critics of the bill say that harsher consequences are not the answer to the drunk driving issue, and that the focus should rather be on rehabilitating people who have problems with alcohol.
The bill should, however, help keep repeat offenders from getting back on the road.
“This time next year we won’t be talking about people who were killed by a ninth, 10th, 11th DUI offender because they’ll be in jail,” said supporter of the bill Ellie Phipps.
NBC affiliate 9 News reported in January that an eight-time DUI offender had been involved in a fatal car accident that killed four and seriously injured another. Rigoberto Macias-Marquez, 44, had a long record of DUI charges, beginning in 1997.
“Horrified, just absolutely horrified,” Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke had told 9 News. “It’s not just the sheer number [of DUI’s] but the consequence of him making that awful choice.”
“Now may be the time to take a look and see in cases like this, ‘do we need additional penalties? Stronger penalties?'” Rourke had added. With the passage of House Bill 1043, there are.