Lawmakers tighten felony DUI law

DENVER — When the Colorado Legislature approved a bill in 2015 which made getting multiple DUIs a felony, it was the end of a multiyear battle to get that law onto the books.

But this year, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers are trying to tweak it, because some judges have given probation to some motorists convicted more than three times of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The lawmakers — Reps. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, and Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, and Sens. Lois Court, D-Denver, and John Cooke, R-Greeley — don’t like that some judges have interpreted the law to allow people to get probation for their fourth, or more, DUI.

“No one could have imagined that a person convicted of a fourth DUI would not even spend one night in jail,” Saine said. “This inconsistent sentencing is violating the spirit of the felony DUI law we passed two years ago, and I am pleased to see such strong bipartisan support for this good public safety legislation.”

Witnesses testifying for the measure said some judges were interpreting the new law as to allow for probation in certain circumstances. While the bill doesn’t bar such probation sentences, it does require defendants to serve some jail time, anywhere from 90 days to two years.

The original law allowed prosecutors to file felony charges against drivers who have already been convicted of three drunken-driving offenses. They can include such alcohol or drug offenses as DUI per se, driving while ability impaired, vehicular homicide when alcohol is involved, vehicular assault when alcohol is a factor, or any combination of those convictions.

The bill cleared the House Judiciary Committee unanimously Thursday and now heads to the full House.

PHARMACY CHOICE

A bill designed to allow patients to choose their pharmacies died for the second year in a row on Thursday.

That happened when Democratic Reps. JoAnn Ginal of Fort Collins and Dominique Jackson of Denver joined Republicans in killing the bill even though it had bipartisan sponsors.

The measure, HB1247, was introduced by Reps. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, and Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.

Dubbed the “Pharmacy Choice Bill,” the measure was aimed at helping rural, privately owned pharmacies, because a growing number of health insurance plans are choosing the pharmacies their customers can use.

Oftentimes, that’s either a big-box pharmacy or sites online, supporters of the bill said.

Opponents have objected to the measure in part because of concerns that it interferes with contracts insurance companies have with their clients and the pharmacies they use.


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