Colorado Misdemeanor and DUI Reform Bill SB21-271

On March 1, 2022, Colorado’s misdemeanor and DUI laws get a facelift. SB21-271 – Misdemeanor Reform updates the sentences for misdemeanors and petty offenses in Colorado. The new laws reduce misdemeanor and petty offenses classifications, introduce a new “non-criminal” civil infraction, and allow for in-home detention possibilities in all DUI convictions.

The laws reduce three classifications of misdemeanors to two, and two classes of petty offenses to one. A class 1 misdemeanor is now punishable in Colorado by up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000. A class 2 misdemeanor is up to 120 days in jail and/or up to $750. A petty offense could be up to 10 days in jail and/or a fine up to $300.

The law creates a new civil infraction, which is not considered a “criminal” offense. This opens the possibility to get a criminal charge reduced to a non-criminal charge in court. The new civil infraction only carries a $100 fine, with no possibility of incarceration.

The DUI sentencing law, C.R.S. 42-4-1307, also received an update. Before March 1, 2022, a judge could not allow a sentence other than work-release on a 2nd DUI/DWAI offense within 5 years, or a 3rd or more DUI/DWAI in a lifetime. Now, work-release is still available, as is community corrections, which was previously only available for drug and other non-violent felonies where rehabilitation was a better alternative to prison. In addition, a judge now can allow in-home detention when he or she finds it “is necessary to address the individual circumstances of the case and fulfill the statutory purposes of sentencing.” Judges can also allow in-home detention when the county does not provide work-release or a sufficient substitution, such as community corrections.

Regarding Felony DUI sentences (4th or more DUI/DWAI), a judge can even allow for in-home detention if he or she finds circumstances which would make incarceration “a substantial and imminent risk to the health or safety” of the defendant, or “to the health, safety, or security of the jail operations or persons in the jail.”

In addition to DUI sentences, Colorado law eliminated mandatory jail time for Driving Under Restraint. It also adds new Vehicular Assault and Vehicular Homicide felony crimes when a Person is Impaired (DWAI) as opposed to Under the Influence (DUI).

The full text of SENATE BILL 21-271.