Division of Criminal Justice Publishes In-Depth Report on Colorado DUI Offenses
The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice has published a report analyzing more than 27,000 Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases that were filed in Colorado in 2016. It is the first report of its kind in the nation to make such a robust and thorough examination of DUI offenses.
“Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol, A Report Pursuant to House Bill 17-1315,” tracks Colorado DUI offenses in 2016 from arrest through final court outcome, and also examines data from probation.
In 2017, the Colorado legislature passed HB 17-1315 directing the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice within the Department of Public Safety to analyze the types of DUI offenses being committed by offenders and issue an annual report. This is the first annual report issued pursuant to that legislation. The data has a one-year lag in order to allow enough time to follow most cases from their initial filing through final court disposition.
Analysts with the Division of Criminal Justice Office of Research and Statistics reviewed more than 27,000 case filings with at least one DUI charge and nearly 100,000 total charges associated with these cases in order to examine data such as:
- Offender demographics
- Toxicology results, including type of impairing substance and amount detected in the breath and/or blood stream
- Time elapsed from traffic stop to biological sample
- Charges, final dispositions, and associated traffic charges
- Whether the incident resulted in fatalities or injuries.
The publication also provides an overview of Colorado’s laws, enforcement and detection methods, court processes, and challenges in regards to data. For example, it’s important to note that drug-related impairment is likely under-represented in the data compared to alcohol. This is due to the fact that alcohol is faster, easier and cheaper to screen for than other drugs. Once alcohol is detected, agencies have enough evidence to reliably achieve a conviction. Therefore, agencies have not consistently spent the additional money and time to request blood testing for substances beyond alcohol.
The full study can be found online at Colorado.gov/dcj-ors. Later this month, DCJ will publish interactive tables that provide customizable visualizations of various data sets.
- Impaired driving is a disproportionately male offense.
- Nearly 75% of defendants were males; men in their 20s represented the largest group (8,011, or more than 30%).
- Males accounted for nearly 88% of felony cases and were more likely to have prior DUI offenses. Of those defendants with three or more prior offenses, 86% were male.
- People in their 20s had the highest rate of offenses, with rate of impaired driving offenses peaking at age 24 for women and age 25 for men.
- DUI charges result in high conviction rates: 88% of DUI cases resulted in the defendant being found guilty via a “Guilty,” “Deferred,” or “Deferred Dismissed” disposition. Meanwhile, fewer than 10% of cases were dismissed outright, and fewer than 1% of defendants were found not guilty.
- Nearly 38% of defendants had prior DUI convictions.
- About 26% of defendants were involved in a crash.
- An overwhelming 86.4% of suspects who had a toxicology screen were found to have one impairing substance present in their system, and nearly 13% had more than one substance present in their system. Only 1% were found to have no impairing substance in their system.
- Alcohol was by far the most common impairing substance (91.3%) detected in toxicology screens. Marijuana was a very distant second at 6.2%. However, it is important to note that not all alcohol tests had a drug screen and, depending on which toxicology lab an agency uses, not all drugs are included in a drug screen.
- The majority of “polydrug” results stemmed from combining alcohol and marijuana (829) followed by marijuana and an additional drug (469). In 234 cases, suspects tested positive for alcohol, marijuana, and at least one other substance.
- In addition to DUI or DWAI charges, the three most common charges associated with the cases were careless driving, lane usage violation, and failure to display proof of insurance.
- Contrary to popular belief, speeding was in the top 5 most common non-drug charges associated with marijuana-impaired drivers.
- Not surprisingly, large metropolitan districts with large populations had the greatest number of impaired driving case filings.
- The top three arresting agencies were the Colorado State Patrol (statewide highway jurisdiction), Denver Police and Aurora Police.
“The outcomes of the court cases show that our community takes DUI crimes seriously, and that there are serious consequences for driving under the influence,” said Stan Hilkey, Executive Director of the Department of Public Safety. “Yet despite these consequences, it is concerning that nearly 38 percent of defendants had prior DUI convictions.”
According to CDOT, almost a third of Colorado’s traffic fatalities involve drugs or alcohol. “That is why efforts by law enforcement to enforce our state's DUI laws is so critical to safety on our roadways," said Darrell Lingk, Director of the Office of Transportation Safety at CDOT. CDOT provides funding to law enforcement to conduct 14 specific, high-visibility impaired driving enforcement periods throughout the year.
Noting that the vast majority of impaired driving defendants were males -- and men in their 20s accounted for more than a third of all impaired driving cases – Director Hilkey added: “We need to work together as a community to find a way to change our culture so that men in their 20s through 40s don’t get behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs. I am confident that the data in this report will help inform public policy as well as educational campaigns targeted at changing this dangerous behavior.”
Efforts are already under way. For example, as part of its 2018 “The Heat Is On campaign,” CDOT is launching a new program to incentivize the purchase of personal breathalyzers in Colorado. Through a partnership with BACtrack, breathalyzers will be offered at a 50 percent discount until Sept. 15. The goal of the program is to get people to know their actual BAC level and how long they need to wait until it is zero. More information is at codot.bactrack.com
The Colorado Department of Public Safety (CDPS) brings together diverse agencies that share a common vision: making Colorado communities safer and more resilient. The Department includes the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Colorado State Patrol, Division of Criminal Justice, Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC), Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM), Colorado School Safety Resource Center, and Colorado Integrated Criminal Justice Information System.
The Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) consists of seven offices and units that work to improve the safety of the community, the quality of services to crime victims, and the effectiveness of services to offenders. DCJ provides assistance to state and local agencies in the criminal justice system by analyzing policy, conducting criminal justice research, managing programs and administering grants.