August 24, 2019

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.

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