DUI sanctions questioned after multiple offender kills unborn child

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LONGMONT, Colo. -- An accident last week has many people questioning the effectiveness of Colorado’s drunk driving laws.

A 27-year-old Longmont woman was left in critical condition and her unborn child killed by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run accident on July 6.

Gary Sheats, the man suspected of causing the wreck, has five previous DUI convictions since 1980. So what efforts are being made to keep repeat offenders like Sheats from getting back behind the wheel while drunk?

That’s the question legal analyst Dan Recht is asking.

“Drunk driving is a big societal problem,” Recht said. “How do you deal with it?”

Recht said the law currently outlines increasingly harsher jail sentences for multiple DUI offenders – up to two years. Habitual offenders could face even more.

Still, Recht said, the facts show that jail time alone will not deter all people from getting behind the wheel drunk. There are 30,000 people charged with drunk driving each year in Colorado. For more than half of them, it’s not their first violation.

“There are certain alcoholics that it doesn’t matter to if they’re looking at a life sentence,” Recht said. “They have such a severe problem that the deterrent that would work for you and me and the vast majority of people in the world doesn’t’ work for them.

“What you need, frankly, is mandatory treatment with a huge hammer if you don’t do the treatment and a long-time incarceration if you screw up after the treatment. That forces people to get the treatment they need.”

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