August 21, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals: County Court Lacked Jurisdiction to Hear Habitual Domestic Violence Offender Case

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Vigil on Wednesday, July 3, 2013.

Habitual Domestic Violence Offender—County Court—Felony.

Defendant challenged his convictions under the habitual domestic violence offender (HDVO) statute. The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Defendant was charged in county court with misdemeanor counts in two separate cases, both arising from his conduct with his wife, the victim. Both cases went to trial in county court, and in each case, defendant was convicted of violating a protection order and the court found that his acts were an incident of domestic violence. The county court judge found that defendant was subject to HDVO sentencing.

Defendant contended that because he was charged with misdemeanor and felony counts pursuant to the HDVO statute, he was entitled to be tried in accordance with felony trial procedures, and the court’s failure to do so violated his statutory and constitutional rights. The HDVO statute is a sentence enhancement statute, not a substantive offense, which mandates a class 5 felony offense. The HDVO statute, as applied here, denied him critical constitutional and statutory protections required for felony convictions. Accordingly, defendant’s convictions were reversed and the case was remanded to the district court for a jury trial, should the People elect to pursue the prosecution.

Summary and full case available here.

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