July 22, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Sentencing Scheme for Juvenile Offenders Does Not Violate Special Legislation Clause

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Brooks on Monday, September 17, 2018.

Special Legislation Clause—Sentencing—Felony Murder—Juvenile Sentencing.

This case required the supreme court to determine whether Colorado’s recently enacted sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders who received unconstitutional mandatory sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) violates the Special Legislation Clause of the Colorado Constitution.

The court assumed without deciding that the revised sentencing scheme, which the General Assembly enacted in response to U.S. Supreme Court cases deeming unconstitutional mandatory LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders, is subject to the Special Legislation Clause and implicates one of the provisions enumerated therein. The Court then concluded that the revised sentencing scheme does not run afoul of the Colorado Constitution’s prohibition of special legislation because the statute creates a genuine class and its legislative classifications are reasonable. The Court rejected the People’s contentions that the class must be deemed illusory because it is “closed” and that the class is, in fact, closed to future members.

Accordingly, the Court discharged the rule to show cause.

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