Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stricter Drunk Driving Laws

The Denver Post

Drunken driving sentences in Colorado can vary widely — too widely, we think — based on a confounding array of factors including county jail capacity.

Someone in one county shouldn't get home detention while someone in another jurisdiction, who has committed the same offense, goes to jail.

While we don't subscribe to a one-size-fits-all philosophy when it comes to sentencing, we do think it's sensible to increase the penalty for multiple drunken driving offenses, perhaps even making it a felony.

Someone who has been convicted of drunken driving seven times should not be serving their sentence sitting on their couch at home watching cable TV.

The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice has made driving under the influence penalties part of the sentencing overhaul the commission is conducting, which is a smart move. We look forward to their recommendations.

Disparities in drunken driving penalties have been highlighted in recent Denver Post stories by staffers Kevin Vaughan, David Olinger and Burt Hubbard.

The Post did an analysis of four years of sentencing data, finding that judges had wide-ranging sentencing patterns, some routinely sending drunken drivers to jail and others choosing home detention — even for those with multiple convictions.

Though judicial philosophy was a factor — judges have varying ideas about effective punishment — the differences also were a function of county jail space.

When the county jail is full or over capacity, judges sometimes face a dilemma: Should they send the drunken driver there or reserve jail beds for those who are thought to be more dangerous?

But drunken driving is dangerous. And as of now, it's only a misdemeanor in Colorado. It's a felony only when the driver seriously injures or kills someone. Also, defendants who have three major traffic offenses, such as DUI, could be socked with a "habitual traffic offender" charge, which could be a felony.

We think multiple drunken driving offenses — perhaps the third or fourth offense — ought to trigger an automatic bumping up to a felony. At that point, all defendants would be subject to the parameters of the state system.

This still would allow some judicial discretion to take into account the particulars of the crime, which is an important function of the criminal justice system.

The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice has been working to come up with a broad framework to reform state sentencing, recommendations they'll forward to the state legislature.

One of the aims of the overhaul, which we support, is to investigate adjusting sentencing ranges for non-violent, property and some drug crimes to reduce the number of people who go to prison.


Anonymous said...

Disparities in sentencings are a common practice among judges in any and all convictions. It is not simply DUI or DWI.

The entire judicial system, especially in Colorado, requires a thorough overhaul.

Focus on the Family gets involved and influences the courts. So-called Christian foster parents use their clout to damage others and selfishly serve themselves.

1) Lesser offense (medical proof not presented at sentencing- ineffective counsel; no priors): 14 years prison===
2) Greater offense (prior felon- crippling; claims occupation on MySpace to be "street fighter"): 90 days jail---

Wake up, journalists! Many of us who read CCJRC articles have very interesting events to tell!

Anonymous said...

My daughter got a DUI for sitting in her parked car on a cold night with the engine running for heat. When she was arrested she was texting her husband for a ride home because she hadn't planned on driving but was given a DUI the same as if she had been driving. When she went to court ordered classes there was a boy in her class who had been sleeping in his car in a parking lot for six hours when the police arrested him. I thought you had to be driving to get a DUI.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend had taken her car to a friend's house near where they were going to listen to music and have drinks. She parked there and planned to spend the night there. She then walked to the club. After walking back to the house, she went back out to the car to get a pack of cigarettes out of her car and got a DUI without ever getting in the car.