DENVER — The proposed law that would have allowed the courts to confiscate vehicles operated by multiple-offense drunken drivers died in a House committee Friday.
During a Thursday hearing on Senate Bill 18, several members of the House Judiciary Committee expressed concern about the measure, including questions about whether owners might have to forfeit their cars and trucks after letting someone with repeat DUI convictions drive them.
Some objected that the measure would run counter to forfeiture-reform laws the Legislature adopted to protect property rights in recent years.
Bob Grant, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys Council, tried to reassure lawmakers that existing law and SB18 would protect innocent vehicle owners, particularly if prosecutors could not prove the owners knew the offender was driving on a suspended or revoked license.
Regardless of who owned the vehicle, Grant said, “we’re talking about taking away a 3,000-pound death machine from a proven user of that machine to create mayhem.”
SB18 was suggested by Weld County authorities who, along with other law enforcement officers and prosecutors, said fines don’t seem to deter convicted drunken drivers from doing it again. Nor do jails have room to house offenders and keep them from getting behind the wheel after their licenses have been revoked, Grant said.
Christy LeLait, executive director of the Colorado chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that under current law, “drunk drivers know they’re going to get multiple chances.” She said SB18 targets people who show a blatant disregard for the law.
On Friday, House Judiciary Chairman Terrance Carroll, the Denver Democrat carrying the Senate-approved measure in the House, conceded that he was not likely to advance SB18 any further.
Carroll asked the committee to “lay over” further consideration of the bill until May 12 — a polite way of killing it since the 2005 legislative session must end May 11.
Carroll said his would have likely been the only yea vote for the measure on his 11-member committee.
Broomfield Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell, who introduced SB18, said he hasn’t given up on the vehicle-confiscation idea and may resurrect it in next year’s legislative session.
“It clearly is something I would look at taking up again,” Mitchell said.
John Fryar can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.