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Colorado health department official convicted of repeat DUI

Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill that would stiffen charges and penalties for defendants convicted of alcohol-related offenses. House Bill 14:1036 would affect Boulder drivers with previous convictions for DUI, DWAI and DUI per se. Under the proposal, the misdemeanor offenses would become Class 4 felonies for some repeat offenders.

The legal stakes for driving while intoxicated can go very high. Penalties for Class 4 felony convictions may include up to six years of prison time and fines as high as $500,000. Defendants with repeat convictions for the same crimes as misdemeanors, as laws currently state, face maximum jail time of less than one year and up to $1,500 in fines.

A woman, who has been at the helm of the Montezuma County Health Department since 1998, was arrested in March and charged with several drunk driving offenses. The 58-year-old Dolores woman agreed to plead guilty to DUI. This was her second drunk-driving conviction in a little more than year.

Prosecutors are recommending a minimum 10-day term behind bars, depending on the results of a substance abuse evaluation. Authorities said the health department head was pulled over after 911 received reports of an erratic driver on Highway 160. Police stated the defendant swayed while speaking with an officer and refused to submit to field sobriety tests.

Officers spotted a partially empty bottle of vodka in the vehicle. The results of a breath test registered 0.248, more than three times the state limit for intoxication. The defendant bonded out following a night in jail, with initial charges of DUI, open container, DUI per se and weaving; sentencing is scheduled for May.

The second conviction did not cost the defendant her position with the county. Unfortunately, many Colorado DUI defendants are terminated from jobs, with an immediate impact on finances and re-employment opportunities. An aggressive criminal defense may minimize legal consequences that threaten to ruin a defendant's life.

Source: Cortez Journal, "Health director pleads guilty in second DUI" Tobie Baker, Mar. 20, 2014

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