April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and this year it kicks off with Alcohol-Free Weekend from April 5-7, 2013. Alcohol-Free Weekend is a nationwide event sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), and its purpose is to encourage participants to spend three days seeking out clean and sober fun – no drinks.

Avoiding alcohol is the best way to avoid a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) in Colorado, which comes with penalties even if you’re not convicted. At the time an arrest is made, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles may suspend your driver’s license, making it difficult to get to work, run errands, pick up your children, or attend court dates. While you have the right to a hearing to get your license reinstated, the mere fact of the suspension can make life difficult.

People convicted of DUI in Colorado face heavier penalties. These include possible jail time, fines, required alcohol and/or substance abuse counseling, court costs and fees, and other penalties. They also include a continued suspension or revocation of your license.
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Colorado Gun LawsColorado recently passed three new gun-control laws that change how residents can buy and keep guns and related equipment legally. The laws have raised a number of questions among gun buyers, dealers, and others, according to a recent article in the Denver Post.

On March 20, Governor John Hickenlooper signed the three bills into law. One bill limits the size of ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. A second bill requires universal background checks for gun buyers, including background checks at gun shows and in other contexts where they were not previously required. A third bill requires that the prospective gun buyer pay the costs of his or her background check when buying a gun, which is currently $10.
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Currently, Colorado treats driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) as a misdemeanor, even if the person convicted of a DUI has several previous DUIs on his or her record. A bill currently being considered in the Colorado legislature, however, would allow some suspected DUIs to be charged as felonies.

The bill applies to “simple” DUI cases that don’t involve an accident or an injury, according to a news report from The Denver Channel. It would allow a DUI conviction to be punished as a felony if the conviction was the driver’s third DUI conviction within seven years or the driver’s fourth DUI conviction in a lifetime.

If convicted of a felony DUI, a driver would face up to one year in prison. Other penalties, like fines, a suspended or revoked driver’s license, mandatory counseling, or the use of an ignition interlock device may also apply. The conviction would also appear on the person’s criminal record as a felony, rather than a misdemeanor.
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Colorado Domestic ViolenceIn 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that American Indian tribes could not prosecute non-Indians for crimes committed on Indian reservations. Instead, those prosecutions had to be carried out by a federal U.S. Attorney’s office.

The reauthorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) recently passed by the U.S. Congress, however, gives tribal courts new powers to prosecute non-Indians who commit domestic violence or violate personal protection orders on reservations. For the first time in many years, non-Indians may be charged with these crimes by tribal courts.

The update in the VAWA was based on statistics showing that Native American women suffer domestic violence at more than twice the national average rate. Because tribal courts have not been allowed to prosecute suspected incidents of domestic violence and because U.S. Attorney’s offices often lack the resources, over half of domestic violence cases are believed to go un-prosecuted.
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Attorney Timothy Bussey of The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. was recently profiled in Colorado Springs Style magazine, in a section focusing on his long-time focus on criminal defense, DUI defense, and serious auto accidents. His experience includes twenty years in Colorado courts, including representation of those involved in military courts-martial and in both federal and state cases.

Tim Bussey’s focus on innovative trial tactics and creative, well-thought-out legal arguments is not only his trademark, but that of his entire office. He was recently involved in litigation surrounding the methods used to test blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by the Colorado Springs Metro Forensic Laboratory – including the discovery of a number of errors in sample testing.
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The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would speed up analysis of untested rape kits in Colorado and other states, according to a recent article in the Coloradoan. The bill, which was passed as part of the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), was sponsored by Colorado Senator Michael Bennett. It expands grant funds given to state and local law enforcement offices for the processing of rape kits.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation currently has a backlog of 250 untested rape kits, according to the agency. On average, a rape kit submitted to the Colorado Bureau of investigation waits six months between its arrival and its analysis. Currently, about 400,000 rape kits nationwide are still waiting testing.
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The University of Colorado Police Department has teamed up with the Boulder Police Department to create an online system for reporting certain suspected crimes, according to a recent article in the Colorado Daily.

The system allows people on the University of Colorado campus to report suspected crimes like theft, property damage, traffic offenses, or vandalism via an online system. The participating police departments hope that the system will free up police officers to patrol areas more frequently, instead of having to respond in person to many complaints. Increased patrols should in turn prevent crimes such as bike theft and vandalism, according to the department.
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Colorado Assault LawSeveral U.S. states, but not Colorado, currently have separate laws that impose criminal penalties if an assault against a pregnant woman causes a miscarriage or the death of a fetus. Colorado may soon have a similar law on its books if state legislators pass a bill recently imposed in the state House, according to a report from KOAA.

Currently, Colorado law allows a miscarriage or the death of a fetus to be considered in sentencing, but not charged as a separate crime. If a person is convicted of an assault or homicide against a pregnant woman that also killed the developing fetus, the court may consider that fact when deciding whether or not to impose a harsher sentence. Additionally, a jury may consider it when deciding whether to impose a life sentence or the death penalty.

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The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that no person shall “for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This section is known as the double jeopardy clause. Like all Constitutional rights, however, courts have struggled for years to decide exactly what the words mean. What counts as being tried for the “same” offense?

In a case called Blockburger v. United States (1932), the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a person could be tried for two very similar crimes, as long as each charge contained at least one element the other charge did not. Criminal charges are made up of parts called “elements,” and to convict a person of a crime, a judge or jury must find that each element has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
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The Colorado Legislature may soon consider legislation that would expand the collection of DNA samples to include anyone convicted of any crime in Colorado, according to a recent report from CBS Denver.

Currently, Colorado law requires anyone convicted of a felony in the state to give a DNA sample. The bill the Legislature is considering would expand that requirement to those convicted of misdemeanors as well – even if the crime is not a violent one or the individual convicted does not have to serve any jail or prison time. Currently, only one state, New York, collects DNA from all convicted individuals, but many states do collect from those convicted of felonies.

The convicted person would be expected to pay for the cost of the test, but the state would cover the costs of processing the results in a laboratory and including them in state and federal databases. Supporters of the bill note that the lab costs are significant, but say that the return for Colorado in terms of solving crimes would outweigh the costs.
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