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Bills target chronic drunk drivers for jail time

7:56 PM, Dec 30, 2009   |    comments
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Two state legislators are planning to introduce bills to increase the penalties for the worst of the worst drunk drivers.

According to the state, last year 39 percent of those arrested for a DUI had at least one prior DUI arrest.

The bill Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) plans to introduce will send second-time offenders to county jail for 10 days and put them on supervised probation for two years.

During that probation period, they would be required to undergo DUI education and treatment. Her bill would send individuals with three or more DUI convictions to county jail for 60 days.

The bill would provide consistency to sentencing of DUI offenders throughout the state.

"It has been a problem," Levy said. "You know in some jurisdictions you get in-home detention and in others you spend time in jail. The public doesn't support that. It's not making the roads safer."

While Levy's bill comes from the Democratic side of the isle, a similar bill will be carried by Republican Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma. Gardner says both bills seek the same goal.

"This is an issue that transcends party lines. It's not a Republican issue and it's not a Democratic issue. This is a basic safety issue for the people of Colorado," Gardner said.

Gardner's bill is different from Levy's in that it would make the DUI repeat offenses a felony. Individuals convicted under his bill would be sent to the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Both bills would have an impact on budgets. Levy's would be felt by county governments in the state.

"I think it will be a burden on county jails," Levy said. "I'm aware of that, but I intend to work very closely with the sheriffs and find ways to help them find that bed space."

"The concerns over how much this bill is going to cost are going to be a very big part of the debate," Gardner said. "But I think if you look at the public safety aspect of this bill, we are going to be able to overcome the concerns and I think we can actually find money within the state budget."

Both bills will look to DUI education and treatment as key components.

"What I'm looking for is some time in jail to sit there and appreciate the severity of what you've done, but as important is a prolonged period of probation while you'll be in treatment," Levy said.

According to a study by the Colorado Human Service, DUI education and treatment has demonstrated effectiveness in preventing recidivism.

Both representatives say they are willing to work together to guarantee state laws are toughened for chronic DUI offenders.

"I think anybody in the state that has had this experience within their family or their friends or their neighbors realizes that if it's your second, third, forth DUI, it is time that the state of Colorado acts to make sure it doesn't happen again," Gardner said.

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