June 20, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: Indeterminate Sentence for Juvenile Illegal Pursuant to Children’s Code

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of J.C. on Thursday, February 22, 2018.

Juvenile—Delinquency—Indeterminate Sentence—Mandatory Sentence Offender—Repeat Juvenile Offender—Multiple Adjudications—Illegal Sentence.

J.C., a juvenile, pleaded guilty to charges in three separate cases, pursuant to a global plea agreement, on the same day during a hearing addressing all three cases. She pleaded guilty first to a third-degree assault charge, then to a second-degree criminal trespass charge, and finally to a second-degree assault charge. The court accepted the pleas and adjudicated J.C. delinquent in all three cases. The juvenile court sentenced J.C. to an indeterminate one-to-two-year term of commitment in the custody of the Division of Youth Corrections (DYC), with a mandatory minimum term of one year.

J.C. filed a motion to correct illegal sentence, arguing that the court lacked authority to sentence her to a mandatory minimum period of confinement as a mandatory sentence offender because the three adjudications required for the relevant statute to apply had all occurred at the same hearing. The court denied the motion. J.C. then filed for postconviction relief, alleging that she received ineffective assistance of plea counsel and that she hadn’t knowingly, voluntarily, or intentionally pleaded guilty. In denying the motion, as relevant here, the court ruled that because it was not shown that the court relied on the “mandatory sentence offender” classification, J.C. did not show prejudice.

On appeal, J.C. argued that the juvenile court erred by summarily denying her petition for postconviction relief because she had alleged that neither her lawyer nor the court had advised her that she would be sentenced as a repeat juvenile offender. She alleged that she was prejudiced by counsel’s deficient performance and the court’s failure to advise her because she wouldn’t have pleaded guilty if she’d known she would be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of confinement. The court of appeals reviewed the entire juvenile sentencing scheme and concluded that a court may not sentence a juvenile to DYC for an indeterminate term. Because the court sentenced J.C. to one to two years in DYC, her sentence is indeterminate and therefore illegal.

Because the issue will likely arise on remand, the court also addressed whether the juvenile court may sentence J.C. to a mandatory minimum period of commitment. A mandatory minimum sentence to DYC commitment is authorized only if the juvenile qualifies as a special offender under C.R.S. § 19-2-908. Two categories of special offenders are relevant here: mandatory sentence offenders and repeat juvenile offenders. However, a juvenile doesn’t qualify as a mandatory sentence offender under C.R.S. § 19-2-516(1) or a repeat juvenile offender under C.R.S. § 19-2-516(2), when, as in this case, the multiple adjudications required by those provisions occurred in the same hearing. Therefore, the juvenile court couldn’t have legally sentenced J.C. to a mandatory minimum term of commitment as a mandatory sentence offender or repeat juvenile offender and cannot do so on remand.

The sentence was vacated and the case was remanded with directions to resentence J.C.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

SB 16-102: Removing Mandatory Sentences for Second Degree Assault and Bail Bond Crimes

On January 29, 2016, Sen. Andy Kerr and Rep. Dominick Moreno introduced SB 16-102Concerning the Elimination of Mandatory Sentences to Incarceration for Certain Crimes, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing an Appropriation. The bill was introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it passed without amendments and was referred to Appropriations. It was amended in Appropriations and sent to the Senate Committee of the Whole, where it passed with amendments on Second and Third Reading. In the House, the bill was assigned to and amended by the Judiciary Committee, then referred to Appropriations where it was again amended. The bill passed Second Reading in the House with amendments.

Under current law, a person who is convicted of certain types of second degree assault and convicted of violating bail bond conditions must be sentenced to a mandatory term of incarceration. This bill, if enacted, would remove the mandatory term of incarceration requirement in those circumstances.

Specifically, the Senate has proposed to delete language under C.R.S. § 18-8-212(3), which states that a person who fails to appear for a court proceeding with the intent of avoiding prosecution and who is convicted of a felony shall be sentenced to mandatory imprisonment of not less than one year if violating subsection (1) or not less than 6 months if violating subsection (2). The amendments that the Senate is proposing for this section would keep the imprisonment requirements “unless the court makes findings that unusual or extenuating circumstances exist and finds that a sentence to incarceration would not be in the interest of justice and would be inconsistent with the purposes of sentencing as described in section 18-1-102.5.”

Mark Proust is a 2016 J.D. Candidate at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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.