May 23, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Juvenile Court’s Combination of Sentencing Options Produced Illegal Sentence

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of J.S.R. on Thursday, July 31, 2014.

Illegal Sentence—Juvenile.

J.S.R. was adjudicated a juvenile delinquent in two previous cases and had two new delinquency cases pending against him. He entered into a plea agreement wherein he pleaded guilty to one count of felony menacing and one count of possession of a handgun by a juvenile in exchange for dismissal of the remaining two counts and the other pending case. Sentencing was left to the court’s discretion.

The court accepted the plea, adjudicated J.S.R. (then 17 years old) a juvenile delinquent as a mandatory sentence offender, and sentenced him to the Department of Youth Corrections (DYC) for a determinate one-year mandatory minimum term of commitment and a mandatory parole period. The court ordered one year of probation immediately following his release from the DYC and advised him that, because he would be 18 upon his release, he would be subject to a county jail sentence if he did not comply with probation.

J.S.R. completed his term of commitment and began serving his probationary term in February 2013. In June and July 2013, the probation department filed petitions to modify or revoke J.S.R.’s probation, which resulted in his arrest. J.S.R then filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, alleging the probationary term was illegal. The district court denied the motion.

The Court of Appeals firstinterpreted a court’s authority to impose a combination of sentencing options under CRS § 19-2-907. The Court concluded that CRS §§ 19-2-907 and -908(1)(a) can be harmonized and applied together; however, here, the district court erred in the combination that it chose, thereby imposing an illegal sentence.

The Court noted that, in general, probation is an alternative sentence to commitment. A prison sentence is generally punitive, and probation is intended to be rehabilitative. CRS §§ 19-2-907 and -925(1)(b) allow a combined sentence of commitment and probation, but only if the term of commitment is limited to no more than forty-five days. Because J.S.R.’s sentence was a combined sentence of commitment and probation, and the period of commitment exceeded the forty-five day maximum, the sentencing court exceeded its statutory sentencing authority and that the sentence was illegal. The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded with directions to resentence J.S.R. to a determinate one-year mandatory minimum commitment to the DYC, nunc pro tunc to the original date of sentencing, and to correct the mittimus accordingly.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Prospective Harm in D&N Case is Factual Question That Precludes Summary Judgment

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of S.N. on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

Dependency and Neglect—Summary Judgment—Prospective Harm.

The Boulder County Department of Human Services (Department) removed S.N. from her parents at birth because a hearing on termination of parental rights involving their three older children was pending. The Department then petitioned the trial court to adjudicate S.N. dependent and neglected, alleging there was a risk of prospective harm to S.N. if she were placed in the parents’ care. The parents denied the allegations and sought a jury trial, but the Department sought summary judgment. The trial court granted the Department’s motion.

On appeal, the parents argued that prospective harm is a factual question that precludes summary judgment. The Court of Appeals first reviewed the analysis of a summary judgment motion on appeal. It then analyzed “prospective harm” in a dependency and neglect proceeding, finding that the fact-finder must determine whether it is “likely” or “expected” that the child will be dependent or neglected in a parent’s care in the future. In other words, the fact-finder must predict whether, based on the parent’s past conduct and current circumstances, it is reasonably likely or expected that the parent will mistreat or fail to provide proper care for the child in the future. A parent’s past conduct and care of other children, while probative, is not necessarily dispositive on this issue. Therefore, the Court concluded, the question of prospective harm is inappropriate for summary judgment. The Department’s motion for summary judgment did not establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The trial court’s summary judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for an adjudicatory jury trial.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Juvenile Justice System is Separate Statutory Framework from Adult Criminal Justice System and Provisions Are Not Interchangeable

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People in the Interest of W.P. on Monday, February 11, 2013.

Competency to Proceed in the Juvenile Justice System—Availability of Second Competency Evaluation as of Right—Indigent Alleged Juvenile Offender—Rule Discharged.

In this original proceeding, the Supreme Court considered whether an indigent alleged juvenile offender was entitled as of right to a second competency evaluation at state expense. Two days after W.P.’s arrest on allegations of sexual assault on a child, and one day after the juvenile division of the Adams County District Court appointed a public defender to represent him, the court ordered W.P. to undergo a competency evaluation at state expense. After receiving the evaluation report, the court made a preliminary finding that W.P. was competent to proceed in the case. Citing ongoing concerns about her client’s mental health, the public defender objected, requesting a competency hearing pursuant to CRS § 19-2-1302(2) of the Colorado Children’s Code and filing a motion for a second competency evaluation at state expense pursuant to CRS §§ 16-8.5-106 and -107 of the Colorado Code of Criminal Procedure. At the motion hearing, the public defender stated that “[b]ecause the juvenile code is silent, they are referring to the adult code,” which entitles a criminal defendant to a second competency evaluation at state expense. Concluding that the Children’s Code was “specifically silent on that issue,” the district court determined that the adult competency provisions did not apply to this case.

The Court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the public defender’s request for a second competency evaluation pursuant to CRS §§ 16-8.5-106 and -107, because these adult competency provisions do not apply in juvenile justice proceedings either explicitly or by implication. The Court concluded the General Assembly created two distinct competency frameworks: (1) promoting the criminal justice system’s goal of just punishment; and (2) advancing the juvenile justice system’s goal of appropriately sanctioning juvenile offenders, taking into consideration their own and society’s best interests. The juvenile competency provisions require a court to order an evaluation at any stage of the proceedings if it develops doubts about the alleged juvenile offender’s competency that are not satisfied by available information. The Court discharged the rule and returned the case to the district court for further proceedings.

Summary and full case available here.