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DUI law debate follows arrest of man with 16 convictions

Defendants cannot be charged with crimes that don't exist. There may be a felony drunk driving law in another state that is much harsher than anything Colorado has on the books. However, until a new law is adopted or an old one is revised, DUI prosecutors must work with the rules they have.

According to a recent Arapahoe County grand jury indictment, a defendant arrested last month had 20 citations and 16 convictions for offenses related to alcohol. Colorado is one of only a handful of states without a felony drunk driving law but not for lack of state lawmakers' attempts to change things. Two felony DUI bills during the last two years failed to get approval.

Similar legislation targeting repeat offenders will be introduced in January. Under the measure, Colorado drivers with three previous DUI convictions could be charged with a felony, provided the convictions occur within five years. The time limit is no longer a factor when a driver has four DUI convictions.

The defendant is in police custody in Denver. The man was indicted on attempted manslaughter and attempted first-degree assault, plus seven other alleged crimes. The 57-year-old also faces habitual criminal offenses brought by 18th Judicial District prosecutors.

Currently, Colorado DUI convictions can result in jail time for up to one year. A DUI can be transformed into a low-level felony, when wrapped with a habitual traffic offender charge. A conviction on the combined charge could mean prison time, but only a term lasting about six months longer than a maximum DUI jail term.

The defendant spent time in prison for habitual traffic offenses. He was charged with the same crime a little more than a year after his 2004 release.

As aggressive as prosecutors choose to be about drunk-driving cases, they cannot exceed the limits of Colorado law. Criminal defense attorneys are obliged to adhere to the same restrictions.

Source: KUSA, "Man with 16 DUIs calls Colorado law into question" Anastasiya Bolton, Dec. 03, 2014

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