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How do Colorado's DUI laws compare to laws in other states?

In Colorado, DUI charges are no light matter. Even for first-time offenders, convictions can carry jail time and loss of driving privileges. But how do Colorado's DUI laws compare to the laws in other states?

Recently, USA Today ran an article on first-time drunk driving convictions throughout the country, and you may be surprised with how much the sentencing can vary depending on what state the person is arrested and charged in.

USA Today reported different jurisdictions throughout the nation vary greatly with DUI penalties for first-time offenders. For example, Alaska, Tennessee and Georgia all are among the states that require jail time for first offenders. On the other hand, California, Connecticut and Indiana don't require jail in first-time DUI offenses.

In Colorado, jail time of five days is mandatory for first-time offenders. But in cases where the blood alcohol content is below 0.20 percent, jail time can sometimes be avoided in exchange for participating in a treatment program or doing community service.

While jail time may seem like the best way to discourage people from drunk driving, studies seem to suggest otherwise. According to research conducted by the Alcohol, Policy and Safety Research Center in Maryland, jail time after a first DUI offense does not deter the offender from doing it again, the program director told USA Today.

"The studies show it has no impact," the director said. "Jail is really only an effective tool if it is used as a threat to make the drunk driver comply with other orders for probation, treatment, community service, alcohol testing."

Even the sentencing guidelines released by Federal highway officials and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in 2006 suggest ways other than jail time to punish first-time DUI offenders. However, some judges around the country still insist that jail time is the most effective way to get through to drivers.

Source: USA Today, "Drunken-driving penalties could depend on your location," John Wisely, 7/28/2011.

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