Colorado Funding for DUI Enforcement Safe for Now

Fortunately for the state of Colorado, Governor Ritter decided to scrap his recent plan to stop funding for drunk driving crackdowns. As part of his original budget cutting plan, Ritter proposed to take more than 1.3 million dollars away from the program that funds the overtime pay for police officers that man the Driving Under the Influence (DUI) patrols such as “The Heat is On”.

On the chopping block was the Law Enforcement Assistant Fund (LEAF) which is funded by the fees paid by those arrested for alcohol-related offences. Of the ninety dollar fee, about one-third goes to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to fund grants for DUI enforcement. In 2009 about 1.4 millions dollars was on hand for 56 different police and sheriff departments throughout Colorado.

More than one-third of all alcohol related deaths in Colorado occurred between Memorial Day and Labor Day last year. The Heat is On program focuses on deterring drinking and driving kicked off during the Memorial Day holiday weekend and continues through the Labor Day weekend. During the Memorial Day weekend alone, law enforcement in Colorado arrested 599 DUI drivers.

“Driving under the influence” means driving a vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, which affects the person to a degree that he or she is substantially incapable, mentally or physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle. Section 42-4-1301(1)(f), Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.).

In Colorado, you are charged with DUI if your blood alcohol level (BAC) is .08 or higher.

I recently had the extraordinary experience to serve as a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) volunteer at a DUI checkpoint near downtown Denver. It was my job to count the number of folks that took the field sobriety test and passed. It was an eye opening experience that every citizen should experience. Unless you’ve had the misfortune to experience firsthand an encounter with a drunk driver, most of us “average” citizens can’t really appreciate the potential disaster a drunk driver poses. It was scary to actually see a person who couldn’t put one foot in front of the other (let alone the ones who were “falling down drunk”) get out of a 6,000 pound vehicle that they thought they were capable of driving.

At the end of the night there were at least 32 less drunk drivers on the road. And I’m glad Governor Ritter had the good sense to ensure that law enforcement in Colorado has the funding to continue taking drunk drivers off the road.