June 23, 2018

Archives for May 29, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: Probationary DUI Sentence Inappropriate Where Defendant Convicted of a Felony

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Coleman on Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Aggravated Driving After Revocation Prohibited—Driving Under the Influence—Careless Driving—Department of Corrections—Probation—Miranda—Motion to Suppress—Prosecutorial Misconduct—Illegal Sentence.

Coleman was convicted of aggravated driving after revocation prohibited—driving under the influence (ADARP); driving under the influence (DUI)—third or subsequent alcohol related offense; and careless driving. The trial court sentenced him to concurrent terms of one year in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC) on the ADARP conviction; one year of jail and one year of additional jail, suspended subject to completion of four years of probation, on the DUI conviction; and 90 days in jail on the careless driving conviction.

On appeal, Coleman contended that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. He argued that because he was in custody when he first said he wanted to be taken to bond out and had not yet been given a Miranda advisement, that statement should have been suppressed. However, Coleman was not in custody during the brief traffic stop for Miranda purposes. Therefore, it was not error to deny the motion to suppress.

Coleman next contended that the prosecutor’s comments in summation on his pre-arrest and post-arrest silence violated his constitutional right against self-incrimination. Because defense counsel opened the door on the subject, Coleman’s pre-arrest silence was at issue, and the prosecutor’s comment was not error. Additionally, although the prosecutor’s comment on Coleman’s post-arrest silence was error, it was brief and did not materially contribute to defendant’s conviction. Therefore, there was no reversible error for this comment.

Lastly, Coleman contended that his probationary sentence is illegal under the DUI sentencing statute, C.R.S. § 42-4-1307. C.R.S. § 42-4-1307(6) prohibits a trial court from imposing probation on a defendant sentenced to DOC custody where that defendant has been sentenced to prison on a felony. Because Coleman cannot be sentenced to both the custody of the DOC and probation, his sentence was improper.

The judgment of conviction was affirmed. The entire sentence was vacated and the case was remanded for resentencing.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant’s Three Stalking Convictions for Single Offense Must Be Merged

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Wagner on Thursday, May 18, 2018.

Stalking—Merger—Evidence—Unanimity Jury Instruction—Double Jeopardy.

Wagner was arrested and charged with three counts of stalking his ex-wife. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to 90 days in jail on each count with all jail terms to run consecutively, and six years of probation on each count with all probation terms to run consecutively.

On appeal, the People conceded that two of Wagner’s stalking convictions should have merged at sentencing. The court of appeals determined that the People did not prove factually distinct instances of conduct sufficient to support multiple stalking convictions. The Double Jeopardy Clauses of the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions required that defendant’s three stalking convictions merge. The court concluded that defendant was charged with and convicted of multiplicitous counts and it was plainly erroneous for the trial court to enter three stalking convictions.

Wagner argued that there was insufficient evidence to support all three of his convictions. However, the evidence was sufficient to show both that Wagner’s conduct would have caused a reasonable person serious emotional distress and that it caused the victim serious emotional distress. Additionally, the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that Wagner made credible threats.

Wagner further contended that the trial court erred in rejecting a defense-tendered unanimity jury instruction or, in the alternative, failing to require the prosecution to elect between the alleged credible threats. The prosecution presented evidence of numerous occasions on which Wagner contacted and followed the victim, any number of which could have supported a stalking conviction. The defense did not argue that Wagner did not commit the acts about which the victim and witnesses testified, and the jury would be likely to agree either that all of the acts occurred or that none occurred. Therefore, the prosecution was not required to elect the acts on which it was relying to prove that Wagner had made a credible threat, nor was the trial court required to give a unanimity instruction.

Two of the counts were vacated. The case was remanded for the trial court to merge the convictions and correct the mittimus. The judgment was otherwise affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: BAA Properly Determined that Vacant Land Could Not Be Reclassified as Residential

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Rust v. Board of County Commissioners on Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Vacant Land Tax Assessment—C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a)—Residential Property—“Used as a Unit” Element—Assessor’s Reference Library.

Rust bought residential property in Summit County and a year later bought the adjacent undeveloped parcel (the subject property). He and his family have used the two parcels for decades. The county assessor classified the subject property as vacant land for the years 2013 through 2015, subjecting it to a tax rate almost triple the rate for residential property. Rust sought reclassification, asserting that both properties should be classified as residential under C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a). The Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA) affirmed the decision of the Board of County Commissioners of Summit County denying reclassification.

On appeal, Rust contended that the BAA misconstrued the “used as a unit” element in C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a), which defines residential land. County assessors use the Assessor’s Reference Library (ARL) for guidance in classifying land under this statute. The ARL further defines “used as a unit” as contiguous parcels of land that are under common ownership and are “used as an integral part of a residence.” Assessors use four guidelines when applying this definition. Here, the parties stipulated that the parcels are commonly owned and contiguous; the only issue was whether the subject property was “used as a unit” with the residential parcel. The assessor found no evidence that the subject property was an integral part of the residence, and the use of the subject property failed to support its reclassification as residential property. There was no error in the BAA’s decision.

The BAA’s order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 5/25/2018

On Friday, May 25, 2018, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and two unpublished opinions.

United States v. Mejia-Amador

United States v. Hopper

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, some published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.