June 20, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Legislative Reliance and Intent on Distinction Between “Elements” and “Sentencing Factors” Upheld

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lewis v. People on September 12, 2011.

Merger and Double Jeopardy Under CRS § 18-1-408—Federal Constitutional Presumption—State Legislative Intent.

Lewis petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment affirming his convictions and sentences for a number of offenses, including three counts each of kidnapping and sexually assaulting his kidnap victims. In accordance with the holding of People v. Henderson, 810 P.2d 1058 (Colo. 1991), the trial court sentenced Lewis for sexual assault and separately sentenced him for the second-degree kidnapping of each victim, elevated to the level of a class 2 felony because of the sexual assault. The court of appeals rejected Lewis’s contention that Henderson should be overruled on the basis of subsequent U.S. Supreme Court case law and affirmed each of his separate convictions and sentences for sexual assault and class 2 felony kidnapping.

The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari with regard to the continued viability of Henderson and affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. The Court found that although the U.S. Supreme Court held in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004) that any distinction between an “element” and a “sentencing factor” is inconsequential for certain constitutional purposes, those holdings neither diminished the importance of legislative intent on Lewis’s double jeopardy and merger challenges nor undermined Henderson’s prior assessment of legislative intent. The Court reasoned that even if the Apprendi rationale were held to apply in the double jeopardy context, it could not alter the dispositive impact of legislative intent on the permissibility of multiple punishments at a single proceeding nor alter the fact of legislative reliance on the long-accepted distinction between elements and sentencing factors for drafting purposes in this jurisdiction.

Summary and full case available here.

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