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What is the statute for felony DUI in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

There are three statutes for felony DUI in Colorado depending on the case:

  1. Fourth-time DUI - 42-4-1301 C.R.S.
  2. DUI with serious injury - 18-3-205 C.R.S.
  3. DUI causing death - 18-3-106 C.R.S.

1. What is a DUI-fourth?

DUI defendants are prosecuted for a DUI-fourth if they have at least three prior DUI-related convictions. It makes no difference how long ago the prior DUIs occurred. Nor does it matter if the cases were in Colorado or another U.S. state or territory.

42-4-1301 C.R.S. makes a DUI-fourth a class 4 felony. The penalty includes:

  • $2,000 to $500,000 in fines; and/or
  •  2 to 6 years in Colorado State Prison with a mandatory 3-year parole period

(If there are extraordinary aggravating circumstances, the sentence is instead 4 to 12 years. Examples of extraordinary aggravating circumstances are the defendant being on parole, probation, or bond for another felony at the time of the DUI.)

If the defendant gets probation, the punishment must include the following:

  • 90 to 180 days in jail or 120 days to 2 years in jail through an alternative-sentencing program;
  • 48 to 120 hours of public service; and
  • Level II alcohol and drug education class

2. What is DUI with serious injury?

Also called vehicular assault, a "DUI with serious injury" results in either:

  • Fractured bones;
  • 2nd- or 3rd-degree burns;
  • Permanent disfigurement; or
  • Protracted loss of normal bodily/organ function

("Vehicular assault" also refers to reckless driving-related accidents that cause a serious injury.)

18-3-205 C.R.S. makes DUI with serious injury a class 4 felony. It does not matter if the driver has no prior convictions or was injured him/herself. The sentence is:

  • $2,000 to $500,000 in fines; and/or
  •  2 to 6 years in prison with a mandatory 3-year parole period

The judge can order prison only if it reasons that prison is the most suitable choice. The court will consider whether:

  • The defendant is willing to participate in alcohol and/or drug treatment; and
  • Whether there are other punishments that may be successful and do not pose an unacceptable public safety risk.

A vehicular assault charge can be increased to vehicular homicide if the victim dies while the criminal case is ongoing.

3. What is DUI causing death?

Also called vehicular homicide, "DUI causing death" is when drunk or drugged driving causes a fatal accident.

("Vehicular homicide" also refers to reckless driving-related accidents that cause a fatality.)

18-3-106 C.R.S. makes DUI causing death a class 3 felony. It is irrelevant if the driver has no prior DUI-related convictions or was seriously injured him/herself. The penalties include:

  • $3,000 to $750,000 in fines; and/or
  • 4 to 12 years in prison with a mandatory 5-year parole period.

4. What are the defenses?

The facts of a DUI case dictate which defenses could be effective. Five common ones include:

  1. Law enforcement had insufficient probable cause to suspect drunk or drugged driving;
  2. Law enforcement failed to administer the field sobriety tests accurately;
  3. The chemical-testing equipment was broken or mishandled;
  4. Rising blood alcohol was the reason for the illegal blood alcohol levels; or
  5. A medical condition was the reason for the illegal blood alcohol levels

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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