Coloradans convicted of DUIs could get licenses reinstated sooner under proposed law

Third offense would trigger 90-day continuous monitoring requirement

By: - February 18, 2022 5:00 am

Washington Metropolitan Police conduct a sobriety check point associated with a news conference on drunk driving, on Aug. 14, 2012, in Washington, D.C. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) held a news conference to discuss the national anti-drunk driving campaign and law enforcement crackdown. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

After a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Coloradans aren’t supposed to be able to drive for at least 30 days.

A driver’s license is typically revoked for nine months after a first offense, though people can apply for reinstatement with an interlock device after one month. But many people get back behind the wheel earlier than that, driving without a license, in order to get to work or school.

A proposed law making its way through the state Legislature would accept that reality, its sponsors say, and allow people to immediately apply for reinstatement of their driver’s license with an interlock device after being convicted of a DUI or driving with ability impaired. The interlock device prevents someone from starting their vehicle without first blowing into a breathalyzer to prove they aren’t intoxicated.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Senate Bill 22-55 is sponsored by Sens. John Cooke, a Greeley Republican, and Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat, along with Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, and House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, a Republican from Loveland. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve SB-55, sending it to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Both of the lead sponsors have law enforcement ties: Cooke is the former Weld County sheriff, while Roberts has worked as a deputy district attorney.

“The way I like to think about (SB-55) is it’s making it safer to drive after a DUI,” Roberts said in an interview. “This is a way to very reliably ensure that people who have DUI convictions or pending DUI cases are only driving if they’re sober.”

Besides allowing people to apply for license reinstatement sooner, the bill would make another significant change to the way DUIs are prosecuted in Colorado. The bill would mandate 90 days of continuous alcohol monitoring when a person is on probation for a third or subsequent DUI or DWAI conviction.

This is a way to very reliably ensure that people who have DUI convictions or pending DUI cases are only driving if they’re sober.

– Rep. Dylan Roberts

“Your fourth DUI conviction, that’s a felony,” Cooke told Newsline, “and this is an incentive to not get that fourth one.”

Under existing Colorado law, a second DUI conviction comes with a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail, and a third DUI comes with at least 60 days. Both are classified as misdemeanor crimes and are followed by a probationary period of up to two years. A fourth DUI is an automatic felony that comes with a prison sentence of two to five years.

The idea for SB-55 grew out of a conversation with prosecutors, public defenders and criminal justice reform advocates involved with Colorado’s Sentencing Reform Task Force, Fran Lanzer, the executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Colorado, testified at the hearing. Lanzer said he’d posed the question, “‘Why don’t we keep people from getting to felony DUI?’ And that was something the whole room could agree on.”

Continuous alcohol monitoring involves an ankle bracelet that’s equipped to sense changes in blood alcohol levels through a person’s sweat. The device can transmit information to a probation officer or third-party company.

A judge has the option to order continuous alcohol monitoring during probation after a second DUI, but it’s not required. While SB-55 would require monitoring in most cases after a third DUI, the bill provides for an exception if the judge determines monitoring would not be “in the interest of justice” or if the person lives in an area where they can’t easily acquire a monitoring device.

A person required to undergo continuous alcohol monitoring must pay the associated costs, which amount to as much as $10 per day of monitoring. If the person is unable to pay, SB-55 clarifies that costs would be paid by the probation department.

SB-55 would cost $563,000 in the 2022-2023 budget year, which begins July 1, and $1.06 million the following year. Most of the money would be needed to pay a company that provides continuous alcohol monitoring.

Matthew Law, representing a company called Smart Start that sells alcohol monitoring devices, argued during the hearing for an amendment to add remote monitoring devices to the bill as an acceptable alternative to ankle monitors. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Pete Lee, a Colorado Springs Democrat, asked Law to follow up with the bill sponsors.

Organizations supporting SB-55 include Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council and the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance.

“Let’s face it: It’s pretty dangerous when you get behind a couple-thousand-pound vehicle and start driving,” Cooke said. “We have a lot of accidents up here in Weld County. We usually lead the state in fatal accidents, and a large percentage of those are drunk drivers.

“So we want to keep them off the road, keep them sober and let them go about their busy lives, sober: Taking their kids to school and going to work, and not going out partying and drinking at night.”

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

MORE FROM AUTHOR