July 17, 2019

Archives for May 28, 2013

Colorado Court of Appeals: No Shreck Hearing Required for Admission of Fingerprint Evidence

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Wilson on Thursday, May 23, 2013.

Voir Dire—Entrapment—Shreck Hearing—Expert Testimony—Fingerprint Evidence—Prior Conviction—Burden of Proof—Preponderance of the Evidence.

Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of possession of a controlled substance, as well as the sentence that the court subsequently imposed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence.

In May 2008, defendant asked an undercover police officer, who was posing as a prostitute on east Colfax Avenue, if she wanted to smoke crack cocaine with him. When he showed her a Blistex tube that contained three rocks of crack cocaine, police officers from the Aurora Police Department arrested him.

Defendant argued that voir dire was insufficient because the trial court refused his request that the court read to the potential jurors a legal definition of the defense of entrapment. Both the prosecutor and defense counsel, however, had the opportunity to question jurors about the general nature of the entrapment defense. Further, the trial court properly gave instructions to the jury on the issue of entrapment at the close of the evidence. Accordingly, the trial court’s denial of defendant’s request to instruct the jury on the defense of entrapment duringvoir dire was not an abuse of discretion.

Defendant further argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to hold a Shreck hearing on the admissibility of expert testimony regarding fingerprint evidence concerning a prior conviction. [People v. Shreck, 22 P.3d 68 (Colo. 2001).] The Court ruled that the motions court acted within its discretion when it denied defendant’s request for a Shreck hearing because: (1) the trial court was the finder of fact, not a jury; (2) defendant was permitted to raise issues during the sentencing hearing that would have been allowed during a Shreck hearing; (3) the evidence was not complex; and (4) fingerprint comparisons are reliable evidence.

Defendant contended that the trial court denied his right to due process of law when it used the wrong burden of proof—a preponderance of the evidence—in finding that he had been convicted of the 1997 drug-related felony. When a sentencing statute does not establish a burden of proof, “the prosecution need only prove the existence of prior conviction facts by a preponderance of the evidence.” CRS § 18-18-405(2.3)(a) was a sentence enhancer, not a substantive offense or an element of a substantive offense, and did not contain a prescribed burden of proof. Thus, the trial court used the proper evidentiary standard—a preponderance of the evidence—and defendant’s due process rights were not abridged.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Proof of Prior Convictions Not “Element” of Class 3 Felony for Motor Vehicle Theft

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Hopkins on Thursday, May 23, 2013.

Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft—Prior Convictions—Element—Due Process—Class of Felony.

Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of aggravated motor vehicle theft in the first degree. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.

Based on proof that defendant had two prior convictions involving theft of a motor vehicle, the court ruled that the current charge was punishable as a class 3 felony and sentenced defendant to ten years in prison. Defendant contended that proof of his prior convictions is an element of the class 3 felony and that the trial court erred when it did not submit this element to the jury for its determination beyond a reasonable doubt. Alternatively, he argued that even if proof of prior convictions is not an element, due process required the court to submit the question to the jury.

CRS § 18-4-409(2)(a) describes the elements of motor vehicle theft in the first degree, which does not include proof of prior convictions. CRS § 18-4-409(3) addresses only the class of felony (it does not create a separate crime), and CRS § 409(3)(b) describes when aggravated motor vehicle theft in the first degree can be a class 3 felony. Therefore, the actus reus and mens rea are the same for the class 3 and class 4 felonies, and proof of two prior convictions related to motor vehicle theft is not an element of the class 3 felony. It follows that due process does not require that defendant’s prior conviction be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 5/28/13

On Tuesday, May 28, 2013, the Colorado Supreme Court issued two published opinions.

Lobato v. State of Colorado, Board of Education

In re People v. Brothers

Summaries for these cases are forthcoming, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.