November 25, 2015

Colorado Supreme Court: Complicitor Liability Not Limited to Crimes Containing Culpable Mental State

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Childress on Monday, November 23, 2015.

Complicity—Mental State Requirement of Complicitor Liability—Applicability of Complicitor Liability to Strict Liability Offenses.

The People petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment vacating defendant’s conviction of vehicular assault while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Although it was undisputed that defendant was not driving the vehicle in question, the jury was instructed that he could be found guilty as a complicitor. The court of appeals concluded that because vehicular assault while under the influence is designated a strict liability offense, it requires no culpable mental state on the part of the driver. It further found that the Supreme Court had previously held complicitor liability inapplicable to crimes lacking a culpable mental state requirement.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals. The Court reconsidered and clarified the reach and requirements of complicitor liability in this jurisdiction and determined that, as clarified, complicitor liability can extend to strict liability offenses. It remanded the matter to the court of appeals with directions to address any other of defendant’s assignments of error possibly impacting his conviction of vehicular assault.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Warrantless Seizure of Laptop Computer Satisfied Plain View Exception

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Swietlicki on Monday, November 23, 2015.

Warrantless Seizures—Plain View Exception—Fellow Officer Rule.

In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order  suppressing evidence found on defendant’s laptop computer after police seized the laptop without a warrant. The Court held that the warrantless seizure was justified under the plain view exception to the warrant requirement. In so holding, the Court clarified that the “immediately apparent” requirement of the plain view exception demands only that the seizing officer have probable cause to associate the item with criminal activity without conducting a further search. The Court also determined that the fellow officer rule applies to probable cause determinations in the context of plain view seizures.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Lacks Discretion to Vary Downward from Mandatory Minimum Sentence

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Rice on Thursday, November 19, 2015.

Distribution of Controlled Substance—Possession With Intent to Distribute—Conspiracy to Distribute—Presumptive Sentencing Range—Mitigating Circumstances.

Rice was charged with distribution of a controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute, and conspiracy to distribute based on Rice’s selling cocaine and discovery of nearly 5 ounces of cocaine hidden in Rice’s car pursuant to arrest and search warrants. Rice pleaded guilty to distribution of a schedule II controlled substance pursuant to CRS § 18-18-405(1), (2)(a)(I), and (3)(a)(I).

On appeal, Rice contended that the sentencing court incorrectly interpreted CRS § 18-18-405(3)(a)(I) to preclude a sentence of less than four years based on extraordinary mitigating circumstances pursuant to CRS § 18-1.3-401(6). CRS 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V)(A) mandates that the presumptive sentencing range for a class 3 felony is four to twelve years in the Department of Corrections (DOC) with a mandatory five-year period of parole. CRS 18-18-405(3)(a) is a sentencing enhancement statute that requires a mandatory minimum sentence, which in this case was 4 to 16 years in the custody of the DOC. Accordingly, the trial court did not have discretion to impose a sentence below the minimum sentence under CRS § 18-1.3-401(6). Rice’s sentence was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Judge’s Ex Parte Communications Violated Defendant’s Constitutional Rights

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Guzman-Rincon on Thursday, November 19, 2015.

Sixth Amendment—Fourteenth Amendment—Jury—Ex Parte Communications.

The victim and her friends were standing across the street from Aurora Central High School when a vehicle drove by, made a U-turn, and drove back toward the group. A passenger from the vehicle then fired a single shot from the car. The bullet struck the victim in the spine, paralyzing her. A jury found him guilty of six counts of attempted extreme indifference murder (crime of violence).

During trial, the prosecutors requested ex parte communications with the judge to inform him that the investigating officer on the case had been contacted by a confidential informant, who warned the prosecutors that defendant or defense counsel had leaked information about witness interviews to defendant’s family and that gang members viewed the interviews. The court determined there were credible threats against the witnesses, investigating officer, prosecutor, and jurors. The court sequestered the jury based on this information; however, the court did not inform defendant’s counsel or the jury that the sequestration was based on a credible threat. During deliberations, the jury questioned the court about their safety, and the court informed the jury of the threat outside the presence of defendant.

On appeal, defendant contended that the court’s ex parte communications with the prosecutors and the jurors violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and Fourteenth Amendment right to be present at all critical stages of his trial. Because a defendant is entitled to counsel and to be present at every critical stage of the proceedings, and the court’s discussions with the prosecutors and the jurors constituted critical stages, defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fourteenth Amendment right to be present were violated. Because the court could not conclude that these errors were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, reversal was required.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Evidence From One Trial Would Have Been Admissible at Other so Joinder Proper

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Bondsteel on Thursday, November 19, 2015.

Joinder—Crim.P. 13—CRE 404(b)—Pretrial Lineups—Unduly Suggestive—Challenge for Cause—Jury—Kidnapping—Evidence—Prosecutorial Misconduct.

The trial court joined two separate cases against Bondsteel for trial: (1) the Signal Mountain Trail case in which Bondsteel had attacked two women while they were hiking; and (2) the motorcycle case in which Bondsteel approached four women in three separate cars while on his motorcycle, taking their cell phones and other belongings and demanding that the women move or remove portions of their clothing. A jury convicted him of multiple offenses, including second-degree kidnapping, aggravated robbery, unlawful sexual contact, and attempted sexual assault.

On appeal, Bondsteel first contended that the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to join the two cases for trial. However, Bondsteel failed to satisfy either prong of the misjoinder test. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in joining the cases.

Bondsteel next contended that because the pretrial lineups in which N.D. and K.D. both identified him as their attacker were unduly suggestive, their identifications should have been suppressed. All six lineup participants were dressed in camouflage with head coverings, leaving only their eyes visible, just as the victims had described their attacker to sheriff’s office deputies. Four of the participants had blue eyes; Bondsteel and one other participant had brown eyes. The disparity in the participants’ eye colors did not render the lineups impermissibly suggestive. Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying his motion to suppress.

Bondsteel contended that the trial court wrongfully denied his for-cause challenge to juror J.H., whom he eventually excused with a peremptory challenge. Even if the trial court abused its discretion in denying the challenge for cause, Bondsteel was not entitled to relief because he failed to show that a biased or incompetent juror sat on the jury instead of J.H.

Bondsteel further contended that the trial court committed reversible plain error by failing to instruct the jury sua sponteon the limited purposes for which it could consider evidence of the motorcycle case in relation to the Signal Mountain Trail case. However, Bondsteel failed to raise this issue, and a trial court’s failure to give a limiting instruction sua spontein the CRE 404(b) context was not reversible plain error.

Bondsteel argued that the evidence was insufficient to convict him for second-degree kidnapping of N.D. and K.D.; alternatively, he contended that the jury instructions on these counts were deficient. Although Bondsteel only moved N.D. a short distance, it substantially increased the risk of harm to N.D. by moving her off the public path. In contrast, there was no evidence in the record that Bondsteel moved K.D. at all. Because the evidence on the second-degree kidnapping conviction of K.D. was insufficient, this conviction was reversed and the accompanying sentence was vacated.

Finally, Bondsteel argued that the judgments must be reversed because the prosecutors misrepresented the nature of DNA evidence during closing argument. Bondsteel’s counsel did not object to the arguments at trial, and there was either support in the record for the prosecutor’s arguments or there was a lack of evidence in the record that defense counsel’s failure to object was tactical instead of inadvertent. Therefore, reversal was not required.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Medicolegal Aspects of Marijuana: Issues Facing Colorado Practitioners

By Jay Tiftickjian

MedicolegalMJOn December 4, CLE in Colorado will present Medicolegal Aspects of Marijuana, an all-day event that focuses on the forensic and regulatory aspects of legal and medical cannabis in Colorado. The seminar will feature most of the authors of the textbook of the same name, available from Lawyers and Judges Publishing. This event is co-sponsored by the Colorado Bar Association Cannabis Law Committee.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 20 in 2000, making Colorado the only state at the time to legalize medical marijuana in its own constitution. Twelve years later, in 2012, Colorado citizens passed Amendment 64 with 55 percent of the vote, making Colorado the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Criminal, civil, and regulatory law has since been rapidly developing and changing in this area.

Because of these rapid changes, Colorado practitioners are faced with an ever-expanding array of marijuana-related issues:

  • Regulation of Marijuana Sales: Dispensaries must abide by strict and constantly evolving state and local laws and regulations. The program explores regulations that cover both medical dispensaries and recreational stores, and includes two major economic issues: I.R.C. 280E and the lack of access to banking.
  • Driving Under the Influence: Since recreational marijuana use was legalized by Amendment 64 for persons 21 and older, the issue of driving under the influence of drugs is in the law enforcement spotlight. Denver criminal defense attorney and program chair Jay Tiftickjian will explore the drug recognition examinations and more-permissive chemical testing that are being used, and will look at controversial studies and research regarding these methods.
  • Blood Testing for DUI-D Cases: The active substance in marijuana, THC, remains detectable in the blood for only a few hours, but some research has shown that residual levels can be found in chronic marijuana users for up to 24 hours. The program includes a discussion on blood testing for marijuana to help educate practitioners about the legal intricacies.
  • Employment Issues: In June, the Colorado Supreme Court, in Coats v. Dish Network, held that employers could terminate employees for using medical marijuana because it is illegal under federal law. The program includes a discussion of the impact this decision will have for hundreds, if not thousands, of employees who use medical and/or recreational cannabis.
  • Tension Between Federal and Colorado Controlled Substance Laws: Under federal law, the punishment for persons convicted of marijuana charges is steep, and possession continues to be a misdemeanor subject to up to one year’s imprisonment. Possession of larger quantities of marijuana could lead to a felony conviction and a substantial prison term. Even under Colorado law, illegal cultivation and distribution is a felony. Program presenters will review and contrast Colorado controlled substance law and the federal Controlled Substance Act.

Medicolegal Aspects of Marijuana will provide an extensive overview of the areas of law most affected by legal cannibals in Colorado. Colorado practitioners in all areas of the law are encouraged to attend this program. More information about the program can be found here.

CLE Program: Medicolegal Aspects of Marijuana in Criminal Law, Civil Regulations, and Forensic Science

This CLE presentation will take place Friday, December 4, 2015, in the CLE Large Classroom. Click here to register for the live program and click here to register for the webcast, or call (303) 860-0608.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: CDMP3 audioVideo OnDemand.


Jay M. Tiftickjian, Esq., is widely considered one of the best DUI attorneys in Colorado. He was named “Barrister’s Best DUI Lawyer” by Colorado Law Week multiple times, voted “People’s Choice-Best DUI Lawyer” multiple times, is Preeminent AV® Rated by Martindale-Hubbell, and is listed in Super Lawyers. He is the elected Secretary of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and in succession to be the president in 2018, and has been published numerous times on the subject of DUI defense and drug law. Mr. Tiftickjian is the co-author of Colorado DUI Defense: The Law and Practice, and the editor of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar’s DUI Defense Manual as well as Medicolegal Aspects of Marijuana. He frequently lectures to attorneys, judges, and students about criminal law, law practice management, and ethics, and provided legal expertise to The New York Times, The Denver Post, 9News, Colorado Public Radio, 850KOA, and many other local and national media outlets. Mr. Tiftickjian is president of Tiftickjian Law Firm, PC, which represents clients out of the firm’s offices in Denver and Aspen.

CJD 15-01, CJD 11-02 and CJD 85-27 Repealed by Colorado Supreme Court

On Wednesday, November 18, 2015, the Colorado State Judicial Branch announced the repeal of two Chief Justice Directives: CJD 11-02, authorizing the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project, and CJD 85-27, concerning indigency determinations for drug and alcohol treatment. Earlier in November, the Colorado Supreme Court repealed CJD 15-01 regarding public records. CJD 11-02 was repealed because the pilot project has ended and the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure were amended to incorporate provisions of the pilot project. CJD 15-01 was repealed because the Supreme Court issued new rules regarding public access to records of the judicial branch.

For a complete list of the Colorado Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Directives, click here.

Tenth Circuit: Hot Pursuit Applies Only to Immediate, Ongoing Crimes

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Attocknie v. Smith on Monday, August 24, 2015.

Aaron Palmer was shot dead in his house in Oklahoma on August 25, 2012 by Deputy Sheriff Kenneth Cherry, who was attempting to enforce a warrant against Aaron’s father, Randall Palmer, for failure to appear in drug court. Aaron’s widow, Nicole Attocknie, brought § 1983 claims against Cherry and his supervisor, Sheriff Shannon Smith, on behalf of herself, Aaron’s estate, and their minor child. The suit claimed that Cherry violated Aaron’s Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully entering the house and using excessive force and that Smith was liable for failure to train and supervise Cherry. Both Cherry and Smith raised qualified immunity defenses, but the district court denied their summary judgment motions. Both appealed.

Cherry argued on appeal that he is entitled to qualified immunity because his entry into Aaron’s house was justified by hot pursuit of Randall, who he thought he had seen at the residence. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding that hot pursuit was inapplicable to the facts of the case because Randall’s outstanding warrant was over a year old, Cherry was the only person who thought he saw Randall, Randall was not at the residence, and Cherry shot Aaron about two seconds after entering the residence. The Tenth Circuit noted that Cherry’s belief that he saw Randall was not reasonable, and that “hot pursuit” does not apply to crimes that are not immediately ongoing. The Tenth Circuit held that Cherry’s entry into Aaron’s residence was clearly contrary to well-established law, and he therefore is not entitled to qualified immunity.

Smith also appealed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity, arguing that Cherry’s entry into Aaron’s home did not violate the Constitution and even if it did Smith had no duty to supervise or train Cherry because he was not an employee. The district court found that Cherry was Smith’s employee, and, because Smith raised no argument that he would be entitled to qualified immunity even if Cherry were his employee, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity.

The district court’s denials of qualified immunity to Smith and Cherry were affirmed.

Tenth Circuit: Lesser Included Offense Must Have Nearly Identical Elements as Charged Offense

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Barrett on Wednesday, August 19, 2015.

Kenneth Barrett had outstanding warrants for failure to appear at a state court trial for drug charges, and in 1999 an Oklahoma drug task force learned Barrett was manufacturing and selling methamphetamine out of his home. Officers obtained a warrant and devised a plan to execute it at night. Barrett opened fire on the officers as they attempted to execute the warrant, killing one officer. Barrett was charged in Oklahoma state court with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of shooting with intent to kill. His first state trial resulted in a hung jury, and in 2004 he was retried and found guilty of two lesser included offenses—manslaughter instead of first-degree murder and assault with a dangerous weapon instead of shooting with intent to kill. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

In September 2004, Barrett was charged with various federal drug and murder offenses in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma: (1) causing Officer Eales’ death in the course of using a firearm in the furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense, (2) causing Eales’ death in the course of using a firearm in the furtherance of a crime of violence, and (3) intentionally killing Eales during a federal drug offense while Eales was engaged in his official duties. A jury convicted him of all three counts. He was sentenced to life in prison on the first two counts and death on the third count. On direct appeal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentence. Barrett then sought relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, but the district court denied a COA. The Tenth Circuit granted a COA on seven issues related to ineffective assistance of counsel.

The Tenth Circuit addressed Defendant’s arguments in turn. It found no error with defense counsel’s decisions to utilize the same police tactics expert that was used in the state court, since the strategy worked in state court. The Tenth Circuit noted that the decision of which expert to call is quintessentially a matter of strategy for the trial attorney and it would hesitate to question any of defense counsel’s decisions. Defendant also argued his trial counsel erred by failing to counter the government’s crime scene reconstruction expert, and the Tenth Circuit again disagreed, finding the expert’s testimony was full of problems for the prosecution and defense counsel was well within reason to use the same strategy they used in the state trial. Defendant also argued his counsel was ineffective for failing to present mental health evidence during the guilt phase, but the Tenth Circuit determined Defendant failed to show prejudice.

Next, Defendant argued the jury instructions insufficiently advised the jury on lesser included offenses. The Tenth Circuit evaluated Defendant’s proffered lesser included offense instructions and found them inapposite because they were not lesser included offenses of the charged offenses. The Tenth Circuit noted that, to be a lesser included offense, it must contain the same elements as the charged offense except for the thing that makes the greater offense greater. Because the elements of the proposed lesser included offenses were not the same as the charged offenses, Defendant’s argument failed. Defendant’s arguments that his counsel should have requested instructions on victim identity and drug manufacturing similarly failed.

The Tenth Circuit last addressed Defendant’s argument that his counsel was ineffective for failing to explore evidence of his mental health issues during the penalty phase. The Tenth Circuit examined the record and found that defense counsel had not explored potential mitigating evidence of Defendant’s mental health issues at all. The Tenth Circuit reversed the death sentence and remanded for resentencing.

The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded the death sentence and affirmed in all other respects.

Tenth Circuit: High AEDPA Burden Precludes Reversal Where Error Not Clearly Shown

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hancock v. Trammell on Tuesday, August 18, 2015.

Phillip Hancock’s ex-girlfriend was staying with Bob Jett when Hancock was asked to come pick her up. When he arrived at Jett’s house, the girlfriend was not there but Jett and another man, James Lynch, were. Later, Ms. Shawn Tarp arrived at the house and the four did meth together. An altercation ensued, and Jett, who was armed, tried to force Hancock into a large cage with Lynch’s help. Jett was swinging a metal bar at Hancock, and it may have hit his head. At some point during the scuffle, Hancock got the gun from Jett and shot both Jett and Lynch. Lynch collapsed and Hancock chased Jett out the back door, then shot him again. Tarp was hiding in a back room, and after the shots subsided she emerged, but Hancock did not shoot her. He calmly apologized to her for what she witnessed and asked her to wait a few minutes before leaving, which she did.

Hancock was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He admitted that he shot the men, but asserted he did so in self-defense. The jury rejected his defense and found him guilty on both counts of murder. He was sentenced to death. He was unsuccessful in his direct appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) and in post-conviction proceedings. He applied for a writ of habeas corpus from the federal district court, which denied his request, and he appealed to the Tenth Circuit. Four issues were certified for review: (1) whether the state court denied him due process by allowing the prosecution to elicit testimony about his prior conviction for manslaughter in which he asserted self-defense, (2) whether the state court misled the jury by giving unwarranted instructions on self-defense and allowing the prosecutor to make improper comments in closing, (3) whether Hancock’s trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of manslaughter, and (4) cumulative error.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed the issue of the 1982 manslaughter conviction. Hancock urged a right to habeas relief because the OCCA did not adjudicate the merits of his due process claim and it based its decision on an unreasonable factual determination. The Tenth Circuit held that Hancock failed to raise his due process claim in district court and therefore forfeited the argument. The Tenth Circuit noted, however, that even if the OCCA did not specifically mention Hancock’s due process claim, it unquestionably reviewed his claim on the merits. The Tenth Circuit continued that Hancock’s argument was invalid because the OCCA concluded Hancock waived his argument by eliciting evidence of the manslaughter conviction on direct examination.

Hancock also argued the OCCA mistakenly thought the state court had allowed the manslaughter evidence as impeachment evidence under Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 2609(B), which governs impeachment with convictions over 10 years old. The Tenth Circuit noted “If the OCCA had misunderstood the basis for the district court’s ruling, as Mr. Hancock argues, the mistake would likely have constituted an unreasonable determination of fact and allowed us to consider the merits of the underlying constitutional claim,” but determined that Hancock had not met the heavy AEDPA burden of showing a factual misunderstanding. Hancock argued the state did not allow the evidence under § 2609(B); rather, he argued it either admitted the evidence as “other act” evidence under Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 2404(B), or as a form of relevant evidence. The Tenth Circuit noted that although the state court did not rely on § 2609(B), the OCCA clearly did, but it did not say whether it thought the state court had relied on § 2609(B) also. The Tenth Circuit remarked that it could reach the merits of the constitutional claim only if the OCCA rested its decision on a mistaken factual view of the record. The majority wrestled with the OCCA opinion and decided that although it was not clear on which section the OCCA based its opinion, Hancock failed to meet his high burden to show that the OCCA’s view was mistaken. The dissent, penned by Judge Lucero, strongly disagreed with the majority’s conclusion, finding that the OCCA’s opinion was incorrect and its error substantially influenced Hancock’s due process rights. Judge Lucero would have reversed and remanded on this point.

The Tenth Circuit turned its attention to Hancock’s argument that the state court erred by limiting the self-defense instruction and allowing the prosecutor to make improper closing remarks based on the limited instruction. At trial, the court instructed the jury on self-defense and the “aggressor” exception. Hancock argued there was no evidentiary basis for three parts of the instructions: (1) self-defense is not available for a person who voluntarily enters into combat, (2) a person can regain the right to self-defense if he withdraws from the confrontation, and (3) the use of words alone cannot turn someone into an aggressor. The Tenth Circuit found no error. The Tenth Circuit reviewed Hancock’s claim that the evidence was insufficient to justify these portions of the instructions and disagreed, finding the evidence showed that there was mutual combat between Jett and Hancock, at some point Jett turned away from Hancock and he chased after Jett to shoot him again, and Jett was provoking Hancock with his words. The Tenth Circuit similarly rejected Hancock’s argument that the prosecutor’s closing remarks about Jett running away were improper, finding Hancock forfeited this argument by failing to raise it in his habeas petition.

Next, the Tenth Circuit turned to Hancock’s argument that his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to request an instruction on criminal attempt manslaughter. Because the trial counsel had requested and received a heat of passion manslaughter instruction, the Tenth Circuit found it was a reasonable trial strategy for counsel to have chosen the heat of passion instruction over the criminal attempt instruction, which was less applicable to the facts of Hancock’s case. The Tenth Circuit disagreed with Hancock that his counsel’s decision constituted deficiency.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit found no cumulative error. The Tenth Circuit found no constitutional violations and lack of prejudice on Hancock’s ineffective assistance claims. Hancock also requested to expand his certificate of appealability, but the Tenth Circuit denied his motion, finding that no reasonable jurist could find the district court’s conclusions wrong.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed Hancock’s convictions and sentence. Judge Lucero wrote a thoughtful and provocative dissent.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant Entitled to Hearing Under Crim. P. 35 if Facts Alleged Would Provide Basis for Relief

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Morones-Quinonez on Thursday, November 5, 2015.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Advising of Immigration Consequences.

Defendant was charged with one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of criminal impersonation after officers conducting a traffic stop discovered a false identification card in her possession. She hired a lawyer whose practice focused on immigration and criminal law to represent her in both the criminal case and the removal proceedings that had been subsequently initiated.

Defendant alleged in her Crim.P. 35(c) motion that she was adamantly opposed to accepting any plea offer that would make her ineligible for relief from deportation. Her lawyer recommended she plead guilty to criminal impersonation, assuring her that she would be “just fine” in immigration court because it was “minor felony” and would not affect her immigration case. Defendant pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and was later order deported by an immigration law judge. She filed this Crim.P. 35(c) motion, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. She contended that if she had been properly advised, she would have rejected the plea and proceeded to trial. The district court denied the motion without a hearing.

Defendant was entitled to a hearing so long as she asserted facts in her post-conviction motion that, if true, would provide a basis for relief. Applying the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the Court of Appeals examined whether defendant showed that (1) counsel’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) a reasonable probability exists that counsel’s deficient performance prejudiced the defendant.

The Court found that defendant had sufficiently pleaded deficient performance by her counsel. The Court disagreed that the district court could find as a matter of law that defendant’s allegation of prejudice was insufficient. It also found that the district court’s advisement did not cure any potential prejudice from the lawyer’s advice. Accordingly, the order was reversed and the case was remanded for an evidentiary hearing.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: State and Federal Constitutions Provide Same Protection Regarding Searches

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Parks on Thursday, November 5, 2015.

Vehicle—Inventory Search—Evidence—Suppression—State and Federal Constitutions.

Parks was driving a van when officers pulled him over on suspicion of fictitious license plates after observing expired plates on the van. Parks did not have a valid driver’s license or registration. In preparation to impound the van, the officers searched and inventoried the contents of the van. They seized nine plastic baggies of methamphetamine, two pipes, a digital scale, a scoop, a spoon, an empty pill bottle, two wiretap detection devices, and a receipt listing a credit card allegedly belonging to Parks. The evidence gathered from the inventory search was admitted at trial. Parks was convicted of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, driving under suspension, failing to provide insurance, displaying fictitious license plates, driving an unregistered vehicle, and six habitual criminal counts.

On appeal, Parks contended that the trial court erred by declining to suppress the evidence gathered from the inventory search of the cooler found in his van. The state and federal constitutions are coextensive in the context of inventory searches. The Colorado Constitution does not prohibit the opening and inspection of a closed container found during a vehicle inventory search if the search was conducted in accordance with a standardized departmental policy and there is no showing that the police acted in bad faith or for the sole purpose of investigation. Here, the trial court found, with record support, that the officer’s opening of the cooler was authorized by a standardized departmental policy and the officer did not act in bad faith or solely as pretext for investigation. Accordingly, the court’s denial of the motions to suppress was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.