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Colorado Commission Won't Put the Breaks on Drunk Drivers

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 16, 2009 10:15 AM

A Colorado state commission decided late last week not to recommend mandatory jail time for those repeatedly convicted of violating driving laws by getting behind the wheel with a Rocky Mountain high. The commission defeated a proposal to require drunk drivers to spend at least 30 days in jail on a second offense, and at least 60 days in jail on a third offense.

The Colorado state Attorney General, John Suthers was not pleased by the vote."This is a banner day for traffic offenders," he said. The commission rules require a 75% approval, so the 12-8 vote was not enough to pass the recommendation. This commission, created by the Governor and state legislature, is empowered to study Colorado's criminal sentences and give recommendations that will in part, provide a more "cost-effective" criminal justice system.

The commission itself has been caught bobbing and weaving as it tried to navigate its own procedural system and produce a DUI sentencing recommendation. Members had developed a similar proposal earlier in the fall, but had decided to re-work the language. It turned out, after Friday's vote that commissioners vetoed their initial proposal in addition to the sentencing proposal they had just voted down. "I'm guessing it failed partly out of confusion," state public defender Douglas Wilson said.

The commission's confusion is bad news for Colorado drivers. During a year-long investigation on drunk driving in the state, the Denver Post found the stats to be worrying. According to the Post, nearly a third of those convicted in deadly drunk driving crashes were jailed for two years or less and since 2005, at least 30% of defendants in vehicular homicide-DUI cases had prior DUI cases. Each year, about 10,000 drunk drivers are arrested in Colorado for a second time.

This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation identified Colorado as one of seven states whose alcohol-related traffic deaths increased from 2007 to 2008.

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