Law re­quir­ing in­car­cer­a­tion for of­fend­ers will start Wed­nes­day

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jesse Paul Jesse Paul: 303-954-1733, jpaul@den­ver­post.com or @JesseAPaul

A law re­quir­ing any­one con­victed of a felony DUI of­fense in Colorado to spend some time be­hind bars — even if they are granted a pro­ba­tion­ary sen­tence — goes into ef­fect Wed­nes­day, clos­ing a loop­hole that has al­lowed some to avoid be­ing locked up while others re­ceive lengthy prison stints.

The leg­is­la­tion, passed by law­mak­ers ear­lier this year, re­quires felony drunken driv­ers to serve 90 to 180 days in jail if a judge de­cides to give them pro­ba­tion. If a work-re­lease pro­gram is avail­able and is part of an of­fender’s sen­tence, that per­son is re­quired to serve 120 days to two years in jail.

The Den­ver Post last year re­viewed sen­tenc­ing data on felony driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence and found judges were hand­ing out wildly dif­fer­ent sen­tences for ha­bit­ual drunken driv­ers, with about 8 per­cent of those de­fen­dants con­victed of felony DUI re­ceiv­ing no in­car­cer­a­tion time at all. Nearly 30 per­cent of the cases re­viewed re­sulted in a prison sen­tence.

Colorado en­acted a law in 2015 that made a fourth and all sub­se­quent DUI of­fenses a felony. From that time to the end of last year, 635 peo­ple were con­victed of the of­fense, which car­ries a pos­si­ble prison sen­tence of two to six years.

Dis­trict at­tor­neys have com­plained about the dis­par­i­ties, high­light­ing cases in which egre­gious drunken driv­ers were not sen­tenced to any time be­hind bars.

That in­cludes the case of Doyle Car­mack, who was granted pro­ba­tion in 2016 in Ara­pa­hoe County de­spite his sixth drunken-driv­ing con­vic­tion. His blood-al­co­hol level in that ar­rest was de­ter­mined to be 0.235, nearly three times Colorado’s limit of .08, au­thor­i­ties said.

The new law also man­dates that felony DUI of­fend­ers serve 48 to 120 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice and that they can­not be re­leased early from in­car­cer­a­tion through sen­tence re­duc­tions.

The new sen­tenc­ing pro­vi­sions ap­ply to DUI cases filed start­ing Wed­nes­day.

The bill’s pri­mary spon­sors were Rep. Lori Saine, R-Fire­stone, Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley and Sen. Lois Court, D-Den­ver.

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