Monday, January 11, 2010

State legislators seek to increase DUI penaties

The Denver Post reports that State Representative Claire Levy (D-Boulder) will introduce legislation this session that will impose greater minimum-mandatory jail sentences for repeat DUI/DWAI offenders. Per the news report, Levy's bill would increase the minimum-mandatory jail sentence for all second alcohol offenses to ten days and impose a minimum-mandatory 60-day sentence for a third offense. Courts would still have discretion to permit work-release, and home detention would be permissible on second offenses where the previous offense was more than three years in the past. Levy's bill is less-stringent than that considered by Gov. Ritter's Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, which would have mandated 30 days in jail for a second offense. It was also reported that Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is introducing legislation that would make a third drunk-driving offense a felony, subjecting the offender to a potential prison sentence rather than county jail.

An overriding concern expressed by county commissioners and sheriffs is that expanded mandatory sentences will greatly increase costs at a time when budgets are strained to their limits. The Post report estimated that expanding mandatory sentences to the levels recommended by the Commission would increase incarceration costs by $20 million statewide, at a time where many counties are scrambling for ways to reduce jail costs, which are estimated at $65-70 per day per inmate. The cost for creating felony DUI convictions, including the requirement for new prisons, was estimated at $107 million in 2008.

The details of these proposed bills will be made public once the General Assembly begins its 2010 session later this week.

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