Drunk driving is an issue that every city, especially college towns, must deal with. The highest percentage of DUI arrests come from the 18-24 year old group, and Fort Collins is no exception.
Student Legal Services has been very busy recently helping students handle their DUI offenses, according to attorney Sally Maresh. “I myself have been seeing a lot more DUI cases this semester.” However, Maresh is quick to point out that she thinks the increase comes from more students seeking legal advice, not more DUI arrests overall.
In the state of Colorado, a person driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .1 or higher is said to be driving under the influence (DUI), while a BAC between .05 and .1 is considered to be driving while their ability is impaired (DWAI).
According to Jim Lenderts, DUI Enforcement Officer with the Fort Collins Police Department, a DUI offence is very costly in two ways: legal costs and motor vehicle costs.
“The first part is the criminal punishment. You have to show up in court and meet with the District Attorney-the first offense can end up costing thousands of dollars,” Lenderts said.
Maresh agrees, adding that there are many hidden costs a person arrested for drunk driving must pay.
“For one thing, you have to pay the regular fines and court costs; attorneys usually charge around $1,000 to handle the motor vehicle hearing and court dispensation, both of which occur before the actual trial,” Maresh said.
Maresh points out that offenders must also pay for their alcohol evaluation and pay a private company to provide alcohol education classes and therapy. These classes must be paid for individually, and offenders could be required to attend more than forty alcohol education classes.
The other legal aspect of a DUI arrest is the motor vehicle part. According to Lenderts, “If someone is over 21 and has a BAC over .1, or over a .02 if they are under 21, they automatically lose their license for 90 days.” Because Colorado law prohibits the distribution of red licenses to people convicted of drunk driving, “this is especially difficult for a student who lives on the other side of town or for a person who has a job that requires them to drive.”
Lenderts also points out that if the Colorado legislature approves the lowering of the blood alcohol limit to .08, then even more people who are stopped for drunk driving would lose their licenses.
There are many DUI prevention programs in place throughout Fort Collins to try to curb the number of drunk drivers on the roads. These include Transfort’s Smart Ride program, where the busses run late routes near the bars so people can ride the bus home. And although the Fort Collins taxi services are small, they do have lots of experience with intoxicated passengers.
According to Maresh, “people need to have a plan in place before they go out. Decide who will be the designated driver for the evening and stick to that. Having the person who drank the least drive everyone home is not good enough.”
Many bars and restaurants in town sponsor designated driver programs, offering free sodas and sandwiches, and in some cases, coupons for free drinks the next time they come in, to people who act as the designated driver for the evening.
Maresh also stresses the fact that “students need to be more aggressive in taking the keys away from their drunk friends.” This simple act can prevent a lot of trouble.
Says Lenderts, “there are lots of great alternatives to driving drunk right now – it’s a matter of people choosing to use them. We would much rather see people making good choices and driving safely.” n