October 19, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant Not Entitled to Bond in Probation Revocation Case

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Johnson on Thursday, July 13, 2017.

Setting Bond—Persons Charged with Felonies Awaiting Trial—Persons Who Plead Guilty to Felonies and Are Awaiting Trial.

While Johnson was serving probation in a criminal impersonation case and deferred judgment in a menacing case, he was charged with, among other things, felony murder and robbery. Johnson was arrested, jailed, and held without bond in the latter case pending his combined preliminary hearing and bond hearing. After Johnson’s arrest in the murder case, the prosecution filed motions to revoke his deferred judgment in the menacing case and his probation in the criminal impersonation case based on the offenses charged in the murder case. The revocation court issued an arrest warrant in the menacing and criminal impersonation cases because of allegations that he had not complied with the terms of his probation. The trial court set bond in the murder case. Later the revocation court held a hearing to determine whether it would grant Johnson’s request for bond in the menacing and criminal impersonation cases. The revocation court denied these requests, drawing a distinction between these cases and the pending murder case based on the fact that the murder case was preconviction and the other cases were postconviction.

On appeal, Johnson asserted that the revocation court was “constitutionally required” to set bond in the menacing case and the criminal impersonation case and abused its discretion when it refused to set bond, with the result that Johnson is being unconstitutionally held without bond. He asserted that the motions to revoke in the menacing case and the criminal impersonation case are “new charges” for which he has a right to bond because he has not yet been “convicted” of them. The court of appeals considered whether the same set of rules governs a court’s decision to set bond in two categories of cases: cases in which bond is set for persons who have been charged with felonies and are awaiting trial, and cases in which defendants have pleaded guilty to felonies, courts have sentenced them to probation or placed them on deferred judgments, and the prosecution then files motions to revoke the probation or deferred judgments. The court decided that the same set of rules does not apply because (1) defendants in the first category are presumed to be innocent, but defendants in the second category have admitted their guilt and are not therefore entitled to many of the fundamental rights that those in the first category enjoy. In addition, probation revocation and revocation of deferred judgment proceedings are focused on whether the sentences that courts originally imposed are still appropriate; and (2) Colorado’s constitution and the pertinent bond statutes recognize the separation between the two categories. In the first, the law requires courts to set bond for defendants who await trial, subject only to a few clearly delineated exceptions. In the second, the law gives discretion to set bond.

Here, the court concluded that Johnson’s criminal impersonation and menacing cases fell into the second category; the revocation court therefore had discretion to deny his request for bond in those cases; and the court did not abuse its discretion when it denied his request for bond because the record supported its decision.

The appeal was dismissed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Plea of Guilty Constitutes Conviction for Purposes of Revocation Proceedings

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Blackwell on Thursday, September 22, 2016.

Aaron Blackwell pleaded guilty to theft from an at-risk victim and received a deferred judgment with the condition that he could violate no federal, state, or local criminal law during the deferral period. He later pleaded guilty in an unrelated case to driving after revocation prohibited (DARP), a class 1 misdemeanor. The district court also deferred the judgment in the DARP case. The prosecution then filed a motion to revoke the deferred judgment in the theft case based on Blackwell’s guilty plea in the DARP case. The district court revoked the deferred judgment.

Blackwell appealed, contending his guilty plea in the DARP case was not sufficient to prove that he violated a state criminal law. The Colorado Court of Appeals evaluated whether a guilty plea constitutes a “conviction” for purposes of the revocation hearing statute. The court evaluated C.R.S. § 16-7-206(3), which provides that a court’s acceptance of a guilty plea acts as a conviction for the offense. The court of appeals concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion by revoking Blackwell’s deferred judgment. Blackwell argued that the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in Kazadi v. People, 2012 CO 73, ruled that a guilty plea resulting in a deferred judgment is not a judgment of conviction, but the court of appeals disagreed, finding that the supreme court has distinguished between a “conviction” and a “judgment of conviction.”

The court of appeals affirmed the district court.