July 18, 2019

Archives for November 21, 2016

When Your Client’s Kid Needs Help — Advising Clients Whose Children are in Trouble

On Thursday, November 17, 2016, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest in R.C. When R.C. was 14 years old, he took a picture of his friend, L.P., during class one day. R.C. used Snapchat to draw a picture of a penis ejaculating near L.P.’s face. R.C. showed the picture to L.P. and three other friends, giggling. One other friend laughed, but L.P. felt bad. The class ended and the boys went to lunch. In the cafeteria, R.C. showed the altered pic to a few more people. L.P.’s friends could tell he was upset and asked R.C. to apologize, which he tried to do, but L.P. pushed him away. After lunch, L.P. and his friends reported the incident to the school’s principal.

R.C. was charged with disorderly conduct, and, after a trial, the court found that R.C. had committed disorderly conduct and sentenced him to three months’ probation, therapy, and eight hours of work crew.

R.C. appealed, arguing the prosecution failed to prove every element of disorderly conduct and that his drawing was protected speech under the First Amendment, because only “fighting words” were banned and the altered photo did not qualify as “fighting words.” The Colorado Court of Appeals noted that “fighting words” are words that by their very utterance tend to provoke retaliatory conduct in others. The court remarked that the Colorado statute does not prohibit utterances or displays that inflict injury, but only those that tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.

The court found that the cartoon-like drawing on the photo was not enough to constitute “fighting words.” The court noted that the district court had apparently found the picture to be “fighting words” because it implied that L.P. was gay, and disagreed with this reasoning. The court found no evidence that R.C. intended to imply L.P. was gay, and even if he did, the court remarked, “We disagree with the district court, and the dissent, that the suggestion of homosexuality or homosexual conduct is so shameful and humiliating that it should be expected to provoke a violent reaction from an ordinary person.” The court determined that the average person, even the average 14-year-old, would not be expected to fly into a violent rage by seeing a picture of himself with a penis drawn on it.

The court of appeals agreed with R.C. that his photo did not amount to fighting words, and therefore found that the government failed to prove an element of the offense. The court of appeals reversed the conviction.


It is no surprise that adolescents make bad decisions. Many 14-year-old boys have joked about their friends inappropriately. R.C. did just that. But for R.C., the bad decision had severe consequences. His immature and inappropriate decision to draw a picture of a penis ejaculating near his friend’s face caused him far more than a phone call home from the principal. He faced years of legal troubles. He was charged with a criminal offense, went to trial, and was convicted. Although his conviction was reversed on appeal, he spent many years fighting it.

R.C. could have been any kid who made an immature decision. R.C.’s parents could have been any of us. But what happens when R.C.’s parents happen to be your clients for a business transaction, or estate planning, or even for a domestic dispute? The parents, your clients, are naturally going to call you for advice.

All too often attorneys are contacted by a current client that has a kid accused of wrongdoing. Federal and state laws have increased the number of suspensions, expulsions, probation, and criminal allegations against high school and college students. Educate yourself about how the laws work in Colorado.

On December 12, Lara E. Baker of Foster Graham Milstein & Calisher, LLP will present a one-hour seminar, “When Your Client’s Kid Needs Help,” to discuss the pitfalls young students face in Colorado with attorneys who have routinely handled these kinds of matters. Learn how to guide these children to avoid mistakes that can have lifelong consequences.

  • Avoiding pitfalls in the juvenile justice system, focusing on the perils of social media
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Sex and the laws of consent
  • School disciplinary consequences
  • Law enforcement interaction with juveniles

This is a program no parent can afford to miss. And if you represent parents of teenagers, you should attend, too. Register by calling (303) 860-0608 or clicking the links below.

 

CLELogo

CLE Program: When Your Client’s Kid Needs Help

This CLE presentation will occur on December 12, 2016, at the CBA-CLE offices (1900 Grant Street, Third Floor), from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Register for the live program here or register for the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: MP3Video OnDemand.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Objection to Prejudicial Evidence Preserved Despite Direct Examination Testimony

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in McGill v. DIA Airport Parking, LLC on Thursday, November 17, 2016.

Trina McGill filed a negligence claim against DIA Airport Parking after the side mirror on one of its shuttle buses hit her in the head. Before trial, McGill moved to exclude evidence of a 20-year-old conviction for check kiting, a type of check fraud. The trial court denied her motion under CRE 608(b) but did not address CRE 403. At trial, McGill introduced the check fraud evidence on direct examination. The jury returned a verdict in favor of DIA, and McGill appealed, arguing the trial court erred in admitting the evidence under CRE 608(b) and 403. DIA argued McGill could not challenge the admission because she introduced it first on direct examination.

The Colorado Court of Appeals found that invited error did not apply because McGill did not expressly acquiesce in the trial court’s ruling. Instead, the trial court ruled over her objection that the evidence was admissible, and she strategically introduced it at trial in an attempt to mitigate the damage. The court of appeals also declined to rule that she waived her right to challenge the evidence. McGill’s attempt to counter the effect of the impeachment evidence was not an intentional abandonment of her objection.

The court of appeals evaluated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 755 (2000), and found the dissent by Justice Souter persuasive. Because Ohler‘s ruling did not address constitutional issues, it is not binding on state courts. Justice Souter’s dissent asserted that the majority opinion fostered unfairness at trial. The court of appeals agreed, and ruled that when a party has objected to the admission of impeachment evidence, it is unnecessary and unfair to force her to choose between preserving that objection for appeal and pursuing the most advantageous trial strategy. The court therefore concluded that McGill could challenge the trial court’s ruling on appeal.

The court next addressed McGill’s argument that the trial court erred by admitting the underlying facts of her check fraud conviction under CRE 608(b) because the fact that she passed bad checks many years ago was not probative of her character for truthfulness. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that the small amount of the crime and the length of time intervening went to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility. The court found no error.

The court turned to McGill’s argument that the trial court erred in not evaluating the evidence under CRE 403. The court found that although the trial court did not make express findings, there was nothing to suggest that it had not conducted a CRE 403 analysis. The court noted that because McGill did not argue on appeal that the evidence was inadmissible under the rule, it would not address that argument.

The trial court’s judgment was affirmed.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/18/2016

On Thursday, November 18, 2016, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and three unpublished opinions.

Palzer v. Cox Oklahoma Telecomm, LLC

United States v. Larsen

Barroca v. Maye

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, some published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.