The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Archuleta-Ferales on Wednesday, December 31, 2014.
Drug Offender Surcharge.
Defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a schedule II controlled substance, a class 3 felony, in exchange for an eight-year prison sentence and the dismissal of other charges. At the providency hearing, the district court advised defendant that there would also be a mandatory $3,000 drug offender surcharge, which could not be waived. Defense counsel asked for clarification regarding the surcharge, arguing that CRS § 18-19-103(6)(a) permitted “at least some portion of [the surcharge], if not all of it,” to be waived if the court found that defendant was financially unable to pay it. The court responded that it couldn’t waive any of the surcharge if it found that defendant could pay any of it.
At sentencing, defense counsel asked the court to waive all but $480 of the surcharge based on defendant’s testimony that she would earn only $4.99 per month while in prison. The court rejected the request.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the district court misconstrued its authority under CRS § 18-19-103(6). The plain language of the statute affords district courts the authority to waive any portion of the otherwise mandatory surcharge that it finds the offender is financially unable to pay. The portion of defendant’s sentence requiring her to pay the entire drug offender surcharge was reversed, and the case was remanded to the district court for reconsideration of defendant’s request to waive at least a portion of the surcharge.