Center, CO- The penalties for repeat drunken driving in Colorado just got tougher after Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill making a fourth DUI offense a felony.

Prior to the new law, a Colorado resident could be convicted of DUI numerous times and never face a felony or serious jail time regardless of the danger they pose to the state’s motorists. Under the new legislation, a person convicted of a fourth DUI faces a minimum of 6 years in jail.

“We’re one of four states that hadn’t done this,” Hickenlooper said after signing the bill, according to 9 News. “Now there are only three.”

He also said of repeat DUI offenders, “I think at a certain point we can’t let them drive. It’s irresponsible for society to leave those people on the road.”

The bill was inspired by a Colorado woman who nearly died after being stuck by a drunken driver with seven prior convictions. According to the Denver Post, Ellie Phipps has lobbied Colorado lawmakers to pass tougher laws for repeat DUI offenders since her accident in 2011, but has met with much resistance. Twice state legislators refused to pass the bill with many in the Governor’s party resisting tougher penalties for repeat offenders because they fail to adequately address alcoholism which is the root cause of DUI recidivism.

But following a serious grilling by the national media last fall, Gov. Hickenlooper managed the get the felony DUI bill passed with a few tweaks.

For one, judges are given the discretion to decide if a repeat DUI offender faces the felony and jail time based on the circumstances of their arrest. The law specifically states that a judge must determine that substance abuse program is not an appropriate sentence in each case before a repeat offender can be handed a jail sentence, according to 9 News.

Also, DUI convictions in other states count against an offender for sentencing purposes and those with a felony DUI conviction will have to install an ignition interlock device in their car for the at least one year before they can get their license back.

If you are facing a first DUI offense or repeat one, you are urged to speak with a Colorado DUI attorney to discuss your case. You need an effective defense strategy so that you have the opportunity to minimize the impact your DUI arrest could have on the various aspects of your life. You may not realize it, but a DUI conviction can affect your education and employment.

USAttorneys can help you get in touch with a DUI attorney in Center or a Colorado town near you so that you have someone standing up for your rights. An attorney who specializes in DUI defense can negotiate with courts and secure a plea bargain or avoid conviction altogether. Don’t risk your freedom, contact a DUI attorney today allow them to get started on your defense.