Growing public sentiment against driving drunk or stoned could help the future of a bill intended to increase the mandatory penalties levied against Colorado’s impaired drivers. Currently, people who are driving under the influence when they cause fatal car accidents do not necessarily spend any time in jail. Around 24 cases in the previous decade resulted in probation, not jail time, for the offender.

The victim in one of them was a police officer who died after being hit by a drunk driver. The man driving had a blood alcohol level of nearly triple the maximum allowed by law. Friends, family and fellow officers of the decedent were shocked when he was given probation instead of a prison sentence.

A recently introduced bill would require a minimum of four years in prison for anyone found guilty of driving drunk or stoned and killing or seriously injuring another person while driving in that condition. The representative sponsoring the bill says there needs to be stronger sentencing with better consistency for the law to make any impact. Many people agree with her.

Law enforcement officials point out that Colorado recently legalized marijuana. It is one of only two states in the country to do so. Because of that, officials say they will not be surprised if the number of accidents caused by impaired driving increase. They say they need to send a strong message to would-be offenders.

Although stronger penalties could coincide with fewer car accidents, there is no guarantee that will happen. Unfortunately, people will always make mistakes, and sometimes, those mistakes will prove to be fatal for others. When that happens, the family of the person who died may elect to proceed with a civil lawsuit against the person deemed responsible. It is a way to seek to hold them financially accountable for their actions, apart from whatever happens in criminal court.

Source: CBS Denver, Bill Would Make Prison Mandatory For Drunk Drivers Who Kill Or Injure, No author, Jan. 21, 2014