Media sources report that efforts are now underway in Colorado to impose mandatory minimum sentences for individuals convicted of DUI after being involved in accidents that lead to death or injury. According to the Arapahoe County District Attorney, the lack of mandatory minimum sentencing for DUI crimes means that judges can sometimes impose sentences as low as probation for incidents that caused a fatal accident. As an example, he cites the case of an Englewood police officer who was killed by a man whose BAC was allegedly three times the legal limit. Although most of those overseeing the prosecution believed it beyond doubt that the driver in question would be imprisoned, the probation department recommended that he receive probation instead. While the driver was ultimately sentenced to 10 years, the incident seems to have made an impression.
A Republican representative from Douglas County has proposed a law that would automatically impose a four-year prison sentence upon individuals convicted of DUI who caused a death or serious injury. According to the representative, as one of two states that have legalized marijuana usage, Colorado may soon experience an increase in driving under the influence of that substance that she wishes to curb. Thus far, her bill has met no public opposition, and Colorado’s Democratic leadership has stated that they support her proposal’s intent. Authorities claim that more than two dozen cases in the last decade have resulted in probation sentences after a DUI driver was involved in an accident that led to death or serious injury.
If mandatory minimum sentences become a reality, they could present some challenges for DUI defenses in the state of Colorado. In some DUI accident cases, drivers are mistakenly accused of intoxication or chemical impairment when no such factors actually contributed to the crash in question. Should mandatory minimum sentences be imposed, they could lead to situations in which drivers innocent of DUI nevertheless face prison time.
An attorney representing a defendant accused of DUI may need to meticulously examine the nature of the charges against his or her client to ascertain their accuracy. Any inconsistencies found could possibly be used to negotiate for a reduction of charges.