August 21, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Remand to Trial Court to Determine if Sentence Disproportionate to Severity of Defendant’s Crimes

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Hargrove on Thursday, December 5, 2013.

Habitual Criminal Statute—Abbreviated Proportionality Review—Gross Disproportionality—Extended Proportionality Review.

The People appealed the trial court’s determination that a forty-eight-year prison sentence under the habitual criminal statute would be grossly disproportionate to defendant’s crimes. The order was reversed and the case was remanded.

The People charged defendant with felony escape after his parole officer could not locate him when the battery on the GPS monitor on his ankle bracelet had not been charged. The People also charged defendant with four habitual criminal counts based on his previous felony convictions for sexual assault—force, criminal impersonation, failing to register as a sex offender, and possession of a schedule II controlled substance. The jury found defendant guilty of escape, and the trial court imposed a sentence of twelve years in prison.

The People contended that the trial court erred by concluding that a forty-eight-year prison sentence under the habitual criminal statute would be grossly disproportionate to defendant’s crimes. The People also contended that, even if the trial court’s abbreviated proportionality review raised an inference of gross disproportionality, the trial court was required, but failed, to conduct an extended proportionality review. Because the Court of Appeals could not determine whether a forty-eight-year prison sentence gave rise to an inference of gross disproportionality based on the record, it reversed the order and remanded the case to the trial court for further factual development of the record as to three of defendant’s four previous felony convictions.

The trial court was directed to conduct an abbreviated proportionality review after further factual development. If that abbreviated proportionality review gives rise to an inference of gross disproportionality, the trial court must conduct an extended proportionality review. If the abbreviated proportionality review does not give rise to an inference of gross disproportionality, the trial court must sentence defendant to forty-eight years in prison under the habitual criminal statute.

Summary and full case available here.

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