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, September 27, 2009

Over The Limit: DUI Justice

Watch how this unfolds. We may well end up with felony DUI's instead of money for treatment. Putting people in prison doesn't solve the problem.
The Denver Post

Since 2005 in Colorado, nearly a third of those convicted in deadly drinking and driving crashes were incarcerated for two years or less — and 13 of them spent no time behind bars at all.

Drunken drivers kill more than 100 people each year in Colorado, and a Denver Post examination of every vehicular homicide-DUI case in the state from 2005 through early 2009 found that the typical sentence for those who were sent to prison was six years. But the same analysis found that nearly a third of the cases — 55 of 185 — resulted in jail, community corrections or work- release terms of 24 months or less. Included in that tally were more than a dozen instances in which defendants were allowed to plead to misdemeanor


Some of those who ended up with little or no prison time had prior drug and alcohol convictions, including one man with four prior drunken driving arrests before killing a passenger in his car in a police chase. He was sentenced to two years of work release.

A number of others got jail terms of between 30 and 60 days. And one man got 10 days in jail in Larimer County after pleading guilty to careless driving causing death, a misdemeanor, after a crash that killed a 38-year-old woman.

State Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, who plans to introduce legislation in January to make a repeat drunken driving arrest a felony, said some of the sentences stunned him.

"We've got to address those areas where the law isn't treating offenders as seriously as it needs to in order to prevent it from happening again," Gardner said.

But the reality is that unlike some crimes, which carry specific sentences, fatal drunken driving crashes can yield a variety of actual charges and a wide range of sentences.

"Every case is different," said Denver defense attorney Charles Elliott, "so in a way it is kind of heartening that there is a wide range."

The Post examined all 202 Colorado cases in which motorists were charged with vehicular homicide-DUI from 2005 through early 2009. Drivers in their 20s accounted for more than half the cases. In a handful of all cases, drinking, driving and death resulted in big headlines and long sentences.

Patrick Strawmatt, a former police officer, was sentenced to 72 years after killing two teenagers while fleeing from police in western Colorado. And Lawrence Trujillo was sent to prison for 48 years after mowing down Frank and Becca Bingham and their children, Macie, 4, and Garrison, 2. Only Frank Bingham survived.

Two other cases resulted in sentences of 48 and 54 years.


Anonymous said...

I think politician Gardner needs to do a lot more homework. He comes across like some of Colorado's tough on crime. Each case is different and even those extreme ones, treatment is a lot better than sticking someone away for 40 years or more??
For a fair analysis take a look at the outcome of all cases after treatment. Gardner wants to make more felons who cant get jobs and pay taxes. djw

Anonymous said...

This is my thoughts, If we can do so many wonderful things to control people why can't someone invent a device, like and ankle bracelet to put on a person who is convicted of drunk driving that would keep the care from starting. I am sure this could be done. If this was done the first time and they could not drive for at least 6 months it might help.
We lost a family member in Colorado about 20 years ago to a drunk driver. This was the mans 8th offense, not all in Colorado. He spent 8 years in prison.

Barney said...

Why not just equip ALL cars with a device that will not allow the car to start if the operator blows above the legal limit. Then, no one would have thier lives ruined by drunk driving (the victims or the drivers)? It would also free up jail space, alternative sentencing facilities, courts, rehabs, etc. Of course, the local governments could not make the killing they do on DUI drivers.