January 19, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: Photos May Be Considered “Erotic Nudity” if Recipient Uses Them for Sexual Satisfaction

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of T.B. on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

Juvenile Sexual Exploitation of a Child—Delinquency Adjudication.

T.B. used his cell phone to solicit, receive, and store nude photographs of teenage girls who were 15 and 17 years old. He also texted them photographs of his erect penis. Among other offenses, the prosecution charged T.B. with sexual exploitation of a child. The sexual exploitation counts were severed. A jury acquitted him of the remaining counts.

After a bench trial on the sexual exploitation counts, the court adjudicated T.B. delinquent, sentenced him to sex offender probation, and required him to register as a sex offender.

On appeal, T.B. asserted that the evidence was insufficient to support his delinquency adjudication. He argued that because the girls did not take the photos for their own sexual satisfaction, the photos did not depict “erotic nudity,” a necessary component of the crime of sexual exploitation of a child. He also contended that the statutory reference to “persons involved” in the definition of erotic nudity necessarily means that the people displayed in the photograph must be sexually stimulated. The Colorado Court of Appeals disagreed, citing the Colorado Supreme Court’s rejection of the contention that the focus of the overt sexual gratification component of the definition of erotic nudity could only be the persons depicted in the photograph. The court of appeals concluded that the statutory requirement was met.

T.B. also argued that the chain of custody was insufficient to show that he knew that he possessed the nude photos on his cell phone. He contended that the chain of custody linking his cell phone and the photographs was insufficient because it did not show that the photographs were accurate copies of the photographs that were on his phone. The court found that the photos were found by the police on the T.B.’s cell phone, they were identified by the girls as photos they had taken of themselves and texted to him, and T.B. had complimented one of them on the photos. A digital forensic officer testified that the data in T.B.’s phone had not been tampered with, and the photographs had been opened and viewed. Accordingly, there was sufficient evidence to prove that T.B. knowingly possessed the nude photos.

T.B. also argued that because there was no “sexual abuse of a child” in the photos, the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction. The court found that the clear and unambiguous language of the statute does not contain such a requirement.

T.B. further argued that the statute does not cover “teen sexting.” The court found nothing in the language of the statute to support such an argument.

T.B. also contended that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his request for a jury trial. The court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion because its decision fell within a range of reasonable options.

Finally, T.B. argued that he was being selectively prosecuted because he was a male and the trial court should have dismissed the sexual exploitation charges. The court found that the prosecution was not motivated by a discriminatory purpose and concluded that the trial court’s decision was not manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair.

The delinquency adjudication was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Presence of Juvenile Defendant’s Parent Satisfies Statutory Requirement

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People in Interest of A.L.-C. on Monday, October 24, 2016.

The juvenile defendant, A.L.-C., was charged with sexual assault on a child after his little sister, B.O., reported that he had touched her inappropriately and had intercourse with her. Defendant’s mother, also the mother of B.O., had accompanied him to his forensic interview. During a recorded exchange in which Defendant, his mother, and his step-father discussed whether he would waive his Miranda rights, Defendant’s mother asked him if he understood his rights and he said he did. She informed him that she had to protect B.O. and chided him for never paying attention. Defendant told his mother that he would rather keep quiet. It was disputed whether he meant he would rather not talk to his mother or the detective.

Defendant’s mother was present for the entire forensic interview. At first, Defendant denied B.O.’s allegations, but after being confronted with details from an earlier interview with B.O., Defendant confessed. He was charged with sexual assault on a child.

Before trial, Defendant sought to suppress his statements in the forensic interview, arguing that that his mother’s presence did not satisfy the requirement in C.R.S. § 19-2-511(1) that a parent be present at the interview because his mother did not hold his interests “uppermost in mind.” The trial court agreed and suppressed Defendant’s statements. The People filed an interlocutory appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court regarding whether the statute required more than Defendant’s parent’s presence at the interview.

The supreme court analyzed the statute and determined its plain language required nothing more than a parent’s presence during advisement and interrogation. Defendant argued that the statute requires not only a parent’s presence, but also that the parent hold the defendant’s interest “uppermost in mind,” citing several cases. The supreme court distinguished case law advanced by Defendant, noting that in those cases it was not a parent present at the interview. The supreme court held that the shared interest analysis from the prior cases was inapposite because a parent was already in one of the statutorily defined categories. 

The court noted that although its holding may seem to differ from People v. Hayhurst, 571 P.2d 721 (Colo. 1977), it was actually in line with Hayhurst. In that case, the supreme court held that a parent could not fulfill his statutory role if his interests were adverse to his child’s. However, the court also held that the fact that the father was upset with his son did not necessarily mean their interests were adverse.

The supreme court reversed the trial court’s suppression order and remanded for further proceedings.

CJD 05-01, “Directive Concerning Access to Court Records,” Amended by Colorado Supreme Court

On Tuesday, October 18, 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court adopted changes to Chief Justice Directive 05-01, “Directive Concerning Access to Court Records.” The changes to this Chief Justice Directive were proposed by the Public Access Committee, and they replace previous public access policies. The changes include clarification of wording that was causing confusion, a mandate that court records involving a child victim be redacted before being released to the public, inclusion of applications for public defenders, court-appointed counsel, or guardians ad litem as not accessible to the public, and changes to Appendix C for consistency purposes. The full Chief Justice Directive is available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Children’s Code Does Not Restrict DA’s Prosecution for Mandatory Reporter Violations

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Berges v. County Court of Douglas County on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

The Children’s Code—Authority of District Attorneys to Prosecute Mandatory Reporters.

Plaintiffs are medical doctors, clinical social workers, and healthcare professionals charged with violating C.R.S. § 19-3-304, under which they are “mandatory reporters” required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Plaintiffs moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that the district attorney lacked authority to prosecute under C.R.S. § 19-3-206. The county court denied the motions. Plaintiffs filed a complaint under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) seeking review of the county court’s orders. The district court denied all relief and upheld the county court’s determination.

On appeal, plaintiffs contended that C.R.S. § 19-3-206 of the Children’s Code vests county attorneys with exclusive authority to prosecute mandatory reporters for criminal violations of C.R.S. § 19-3-304 because such prosecutions are “proceedings” brought under article 3 of the Children’s Code. The Colorado Court of Appeals concluded that C.R.S. § 19-3-206 does not preclude district attorneys from prosecuting mandatory reporters because C.R.S. § 19-3-304 does not set forth a proceeding under article 3, but simply defines an offense. Criminal prosecutions of that offense do not constitute article 3 proceedings.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Reverse Transfer Request Does Not Waive Psychologist-Patient Privilege

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Johnson v. People on Monday, October 3, 2016.

Criminal Law—Juvenile Law—Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege.

This case raises two questions involving what a trial court may order when a juvenile seeks reverse-transfer of her criminal case from trial court to juvenile court. First, when a juvenile requests a reverse-transfer hearing, does she waive her psychotherapist-patient privilege, thereby authorizing a trial court to order her to produce privileged mental health records pursuant to C.R.S. § 19-2-517(3)(b)(VI)? Second, does C.R.S. § 19-2-517(3)(b)(VI) give a trial court the power to order a juvenile to submit to a state mental health assessment? As to the first question, the Colorado Supreme Court held that, because nothing in the statute states that a juvenile waives her psychotherapist–patient privilege by requesting a reverse-transfer hearing, a trial court cannot order the juvenile to produce privileged mental health records. As to the second question, the court held that, because nothing in the statute explicitly grants a trial court the power to order a mental health assessment, a trial court cannot order such an assessment. The reverse-transfer statute only requires that the trial court consider mental health records “made available” (i.e., voluntarily waived by the privilege-holder) to the trial court and the parties. Therefore, the court made its rule to show cause absolute and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Mental Health Assessment Not Court-Ordered Where Defendant Agreed to Participate

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Higgins v. People on Monday, October 3, 2016.

Criminal Law—Juvenile Law—Psychotherapist– Patient Privilege—Constitutional Law.

This companion case to People v. Johnson, 2016 CO 69, raises two questions. First, does a trial court have statutory authority to order a juvenile charged as an adult to undergo a state-administered mental health assessment for a reverse-transfer proceeding? The supreme court answered that question in the negative in Johnson, but does not answer that question here because it is hypothetical—the question is not based on the facts of this case. Second, is a trial court required, before a mental health assessment, to provide a juvenile with warnings based on the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination? The court does not answer that question either, because (1) Higgins consented to the evaluation while represented by counsel, and (2) any claims that ineffective assistance of counsel vitiated Higgins’s consent are premature. Therefore, the court vacated the order to show cause and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Rule Change 2016(10) Regarding Public Access to Records Released

On September 22, 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court adopted Rule Change 2016(10), amending the rules regarding public access to information and records. The changes affect Rule 2, “Public Access to Administrative Records of the Judicial Branch.” A redline of the changes is available here.

The changes are relatively minor, including adding a designation of custodian of records for the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel and adding a reference to the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel in the definition of “judicial branch.” An error in the numbering of subsections was corrected in Section 3 of the rule. Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 2 and Rules 1 and 3 were unchanged.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Court Lacked Jurisdiction to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of J.W. on Thursday, August 25, 2016.

Termination of Parent–Child Relationship—Lack of Jurisdiction.

The Clear Creek Department of Human Services (department) filed a petition in dependency or neglect concerning J.W. and N.W. Following a jury trial concerning mother, the jury answered “no” to the question of whether the children lacked proper parental care and stated that it was “unable to return an answer” as to whether the children’s environment was injurious to their welfare. Immediately following the jury trial, a hearing was held to discuss scheduling a new adjudication trial for mother. Mother instead chose to admit the children’s environment was injurious to their welfare, and the court accepted her admission. No order adjudicating the children dependent or neglected was entered. The court adopted the treatment plan already in place as the plan going forward. A few months later, the court terminated mother’s parental rights. More than a month after mother’s parental rights were terminated, the court entered a written order adjudicating the children dependent or neglected with respect to her.

Mother appealed the order purporting to terminate her legal relationship with her children. The Court of Appeals considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction to terminate mother’s parental rights before it entered an order adjudicating the children dependent or neglected with respect to her and concluded it did not. Without adjudication, a court does not acquire subject matter jurisdiction to terminate a parent–child relationship.

In addition, the Court found that the written adjudicatory order was entered several weeks after mother filed her notice of appeal. Once the notice of appeal was filed, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to take any action because jurisdiction had been shifted to the Court of Appeals.

The order adjudicating the children dependent or neglected with respect to mother and the judgment terminating her parental rights with respect to the children were vacated. The case was remanded for the trial court to resume proceedings at the adjudicatory stage.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Court Had Discretion Whether to Award Presentence Confinement Credit

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Garcia on Thursday, August 25, 2016.

Presentence Confinement Credit—Youthful Offender System.

Defendant was charged as an adult with multiple felonies in two cases for offenses he committed while a juvenile. The cases were resolved through a disposition in which defendant pleaded guilty to one felony in each case. The parties stipulated to concurrent sentences in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC) with a controlling sentence of 18 years. The parties also agreed that each DOC sentence would be suspended if defendant successfully completed six years in the Youthful Offender System (YOS). The district court refused to award presentence confinement credit (PSCC) at sentencing.

Defendant appealed the court’s refusal to award PSCC. C.R.S. § 18-1.3-407(2)(a)(I) provides that the court “may award an offender sentenced to the [YOS] credit for presentence confinement; except that such credit shall not reduce the offender’s actual time served in the [YOS] to fewer than two years.” Defendant argued that this section was not discretionary, and that “may” meant “shall.” The Court of Appeals disagreed. The language of the statute is not ambiguous. The use of the word “may” is indicative of a grant of discretion by the legislature, particularly where it is used in the same sentence with the word “shall.” The Court noted that if defendant does not successfully complete his six-year YOS sentence and is resentenced to DOC, he will be entitled to an award of PSCC under C.R.S. § 18-1.3-405.

Alternatively, defendant argued that even if “may” is permissive, the district court abused its discretion in refusing to award PSCC. The Court held it was not an abuse of discretion for the district court not to award PSCC for the 358 days defendant spent in jail before he was sentenced in one case and the 418 days in the other. The Court found ample documentation in the record to support the district court’s decision.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Name Change, Adoption, and Seal My Case Forms and Instructions Amended in August

The Colorado State Judicial Branch revised sixteen JDFs in August. The revised forms include change of name forms and instructions, a motion and order to seal criminal records, a motion to convert a legal separation to dissolution, and adoption forms and instructions. These revised forms are available here as PDF downloads or from the State Judicial forms page.

PLEASE NOTE: The court’s website hosting the JDF forms has been revised to eliminate the option of modifying the form itself. This decision was made to protect the integrity of forms presented to the court with a JDF designation. This will allow the court to know that forms with a JDF designation contain only the JDF version’s information. Users can continue to download the PDF version of the forms from the court’s website for completion but modification of the form itself is not available. CBA-CLE will continue to provide selected JDF forms in our books and in Bradforms in a word processable format. PLEASE REMEMBER, if you modify a JDF form, you must remove the JDF designation from the footer or the court may reject your filing.

ADOPTION

  • JDF 495 – Instructions for Second Parent Adoption Without Civil Union (R8/16)
  • JDF 498 – Instructions for Kinship Adoption (R8/16)
  • JDF 499 – Instructions for Custodial Adoption (R8/16)
  • JDF 500 – Instructions for Stepparent Adoption (R8/16)

DOMESTIC RELATIONS

  • JDF 1321 – Motion to Convert Decree of Legal Separation to Decree of Dissolution of Marriage (R8/16)

NAME CHANGE

  • JDF 385 – Instructions for Filing a Change of Name following Conviction/Adjudication for a Felony (R8/16)
  • JDF 387 – Final Decree for Change of Name to Obtain Identity-Related Documents (R8/16)
  • JDF 388 – Instructions for Filing a Change of Name for an Individual 70 Years of Age or Older (R8/16)
  • JDF 389 – Petition for Change of Name (70 Years of Age or Older) (R8/16)
  • JDF 420 – Instructions for Filing a Change of Name (Minor) (R8/16)
  • JDF 421 – Petition for Change of Name (Minor Child) (R8/16)
  • JDF 432 – Instructions for Filing a Change of Name (Adult) (R8/16)
  • JDF 433 – Petition for Change of Name (Adult) (R8/16)

SEAL MY CASE

  • JDF 477 – Motion to Seal Criminal Justice Records (R8/16)
  • JDF 478 – Order to Seal Criminal Justice Records (R8/16)

For all of State Judicial’s JDF forms, click here.

Chief Justice Directive 12-03 Regarding Court Compensation of Expert Witnesses Amended

On July 21, 2016, Chief Justice Nancy Rice of the Colorado Supreme Court signed an amended version of CJD 12-03, “Directive Concerning Court Compensation of Expert Witnesses and Professionals Conducting Mental Health Evaluations, Sanity Evaluations, and Competency Evaluations,” effective July 1, 2016. The CJD was amended in conjunction with the establishment of the new Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel. The experts covered by the CJD now fall within the purview of the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel, so the reference to C.R.S. § 19-3-607 was removed. The Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel now has the related state funding and is statutorily responsible for payment of expert witnesses in these cases.

For the full text of the CJD 12-03, click here. For all of the Chief Justice Directives, click here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Proof of Alleged Abuse Not Required Where Child Adjudicated Dependent Based on Lack of Parental Care

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of L.K. on Thursday, July 14, 2016.

Dependency and Neglect—Sexual Abuse—Polygraph Examination—Treatment Plan—Testimony—Evidence—Attorney Fees—Discovery Violations—Sovereign Immunity.

L.K. alleged sexual abuse by her father, C.K. Although C.K. denied the allegations, he stipulated that L.K. was dependent and neglected because she lacked proper parental care. The court accepted his admission and adjudicated L.K. dependent and neglected. The Moffat County Department of Social Services (MCDSS) devised a treatment plan for C.K., which required, among other things, that C.K. take a polygraph examination as part of denier’s treatment. Moffat later moved to terminate C.K.’s parental rights. Among other things, the court found that C.K. had been referred for a polygraph examination but did not appear for it, and it granted the termination motion, citing C.K.’s failure to successfully complete treatment designed to address the allegations of sexual misbehavior with L.K. as sufficient evidence that he was unable or unwilling to provide nurturing and safe parenting to adequately address her needs.

On appeal, C.K. contended that the trial court committed reversible error by considering the denier’s treatment polygraph examination as evidence supporting its determination that he failed to successfully complete his treatment plan. He did not dispute either that his treatment plan required him to participate in denier’s treatment or that a polygraph examination was required in denier’s treatment. For these reasons, the court properly admitted evidence of efforts to schedule an appointment for a polygraph examination and evidence that C.K. did not keep the appointment, and the court did not err in considering this evidence in terminating C.K.’s parental rights.

Next, C.K. contended that MCDSS had the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that his parental rights should be terminated, but the trial court erred by unfairly shifting the burden of proof to him when he decided not to testify in the termination hearing. When C.K. failed to present evidence, the court did not improperly shift the burden of proof, infringe on his privilege against self-incrimination, or draw impermissible adverse inferences.

Finally, C.K. contended that MCDSS did not prove its case by clear and convincing evidence, asserting the absence of such evidence that he had sexually abused L.K., which was the basis for the petition in dependency and neglect. However, the factual basis for adjudicating L.K. dependent and neglected had already been established, and MCDSS’s burden was to prove the criteria for termination, including C.K.’s failure to comply with his treatment plan. The Court of Appeals rejected the contention that the evidence was insufficient to support the judgment.

On cross-appeal, MCDSS contended that the trial court erred in assessing attorney fees against it for discovery violations. Sovereign immunity precludes orders assessing attorney fees against a governmental entity for discovery violations.

The judgment was affirmed and the sanctions order was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.