July 21, 2019

SB 17-051: Revising Statutes Concerning Rights of Crime Victims

On January 13, 2017, Sens. Bob Gardner & Rhonda Fields and Rep. Mike Foote introduced SB 17-051, “Concerning the Rights of Crime Victims.”

The bill makes various amendments to statutes concerning the rights of crime victims, including the following:

The definition of ‘crime’ is amended to include:

  • Failure to stop at the scene of an accident that results in serious bodily injury of another person;
  • Violation of a protection order issued against a person charged with stalking; and
  • Posting a private image for harassment or for pecuniary gain.

The definition of ‘critical stages’ is amended to include any full board review hearing.

The definition of ‘modification of sentence’ is amended to include a resentencing following a probation revocation hearing or a request for early termination of probation.

The bill creates a victim’s right:

  • To be heard at any court proceeding at which the court considers a request for progression from a person accused or convicted of a crime against the victim and who is in the custody of the state mental health hospital. ‘Progression’ includes off-grounds supervised or unsupervised privileges, community placement, conditional release, unconditional discharge, or a special furlough.
  • To be informed of the results of a probation or parole revocation hearing; and
  • To be informed of the governor’s decision to commute or pardon a person convicted of a crime against the victim before such information is publicly disclosed.

The bill requires a district attorney’s office, if practicable, to inform a victim of any pending motion to sequester the victim from a critical stage in the case.

Unless a victim requests otherwise, the district attorney shall inform each victim of the right to receive information from the state mental health hospital concerning the custody and release of a person convicted of a crime against the victim and ordered by a court into the hospital’s care, including how the victim may request notification from the hospital.

Upon the written request of a victim, the Colorado mental health institute at Pueblo or the Colorado mental health institute at Fort Logan shall notify the victim of certain information regarding any person who was charged with or convicted of a crime against the victim.

The bill requires the juvenile parole board to report additional information concerning juvenile parole hearings.

The court shall inform the probation department before any hearing regarding any request by a probationer for early termination of probation or any change in the terms and conditions of probation.

The bill was introduced in the Senate and assigned to the Judiciary and State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committees. It is scheduled for hearing in the Judiciary Committee on February 1 at 1:30 p.m.

Colorado Court of Appeals: No Error in Allowing Victim’s Mother and Brother to Hear Other Witnesses’ Testimony

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Lopez on Thursday, December 15, 2016.

Corey Lopez spent an evening drinking heavily with his girlfriend, R.B., her friend, her mother, and her brother. After an argument, R.B. separated from Lopez and her mother and brother. The three returned home and found R.B. sleeping on the couch. At about 5 a.m., Lopez and R.B. returned to their apartment. Later that afternoon, Lopez called 911 to report that R.B. was not breathing. When police and paramedics arrived, she was dead.

An ex-girlfriend of Lopez’s, S.E., contacted police to inform them that she believed R.B. might have been strangled, because during a fight she had with Lopez while they were dating, he had strangled her, but she had been saved when her friend intervened. After R.B.’s autopsy, the cause of death was determined to be manual strangulation. Lopez was charged with first degree murder after deliberation as to R.B. and attempted first degree murder after deliberation as to S.E. At defendant’s request, the jury was also instructed as to lesser non-included offenses. Lopez was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and the lesser offenses.

On appeal, Lopez contended the trial court erred in allowing R.B.’s mother and brother, who were witnesses for the prosecution, to attend the trial and listen to the testimony of other witnesses. The Colorado Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion. At the preliminary hearing, defense counsel contended R.B.’s mother and brother should have been excluded from the courtroom because they were not collateral witnesses and because of a concern that they would change their testimony based on what they heard from other witnesses. The prosecution cited the Colorado Constitution and the Victim’s Rights Act, C.R.S. §§ 24-4.1-301, et seq., noting that victims have the right to be informed at all critical stages of trial. The court agreed with the prosecution and allowed R.B.’s family to remain. The issue arose again at trial, but the court determined that the admonishment given to the family sufficed to warn them not to discuss the trial outside the courtroom. The court of appeals found no abuse of discretion in this decision.

Defendant next argued the basketball analogy used by the court to explain the law of intoxication constituted reversible error. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that there was no evidence that the jury interpreted the court’s comments the same way defendant did, and reversal was not required under a plain error standard.

Finally, defendant argued the court erred in precluding him from asking S.E.’s friend if S.E. had used marijuana on the day of her attempted strangulation. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that the risk of prejudice outweighed any potential probative value of that line of questioning, and also finding that defendant was allowed to question S.E. directly about her marijuana use.

Defendant’s convictions were affirmed.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Restitution Award Appropriate When Based on Amount Actually Paid by CVCB

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Bohn on Thursday, December 31, 2015.

Assault—Restitution—Lost Wages—Future Wages.

Defendant’s neighbor attempted to stop defendant from assaulting two people. Defendant pushed the neighbor down a flight of stairs, causing a broken bone in the neighbor’s foot. After defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and third-degree assault, the prosecution moved for $9,985 in restitution to be paid to the Crime Victim Compensation Board (CVCB), which the court granted. The documentation attached to the motion showed that the CVCB had paid the neighbor $3,185 for the neighbor’s medical bills and $6,800 to the neighbor for his lost wages.

On appeal, defendant contended that the district court erred by ordering restitution based in part on the CVCB’s payment to a crime victim for lost wages when, at the time the CVCB paid the claim, at least a portion of the payment was for wages that the crime victim expected to lose in the future. A district court may order restitution to reimburse a CVCB for payments it made to a crime victim for lost wages, some of which covered post-payment periods, so long as the wages at issue were based on work actually missed before the restitution order was entered. Here, the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that the prosecution proved the neighbor’s lost wages by a preponderance of the evidence. The documentation that the prosecution submitted—a lost wage form from the neighbor’s employer and a letter from the orthopedic practice—was sufficient to show that, before the restitution hearing and the court’s order of restitution, the neighbor actually lost the wages that the CVCB reimbursed. The order was affirmed.

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

HB 15-1035: Allowing Compensation for Certain Crime Victims and Their Families

On January 7, 2015, Rep. Rhonda Fields and Sen. John Cooke introduced HB 15-1035 – Concerning Changes to Crime Victim CompensationThis summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

Under current law, in an incident of hit and run or careless driving, crime victim compensation (compensation) is only available if a death results. The bill allows for compensation when an incident of hit and run or careless driving causes bodily injury. The bill allows compensation to a person who is a dependent of the accused if the accused provided support for the person or the person’s dependents. The bill expands compensable losses to include the cost of rekeying vehicles or other locks necessary to ensure a victim’s safety. The bill clarifies the confidentiality of records of a crime victim compensation board (board) by prohibiting the discovery of certain records in a civil or criminal case except: To the extent necessary for a judicial review of the board’s decision; or Upon a showing that the information is only in the records of the board, and, after review by the court, the court determines that the disclosure would not endanger the victim or another person. The bill increases the maximum compensation to $30,000 and emergency compensation to $2,000 and eliminates the requirement that losses be at least $25. The bill requires medical service providers to suspend collection proceedings for 90 days while a claim for compensation is considered. Finally, the bill specifies that a court shall include the amount of compensation requested by a crime victim compensation board in a restitution order and how the amount may be established.

The bill was assigned to the Judiciary and Appropriations committees.

HB 13-1254: Expanding the Restorative Justice Coordinating Council and Creating Pilot Project for Restorative Justice in Four Judicial Districts

On March 6, 2013, Rep. Pete Lee and Sen. Linda Newell introduced HB 13-1254 – Concerning Restorative Justice. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

Under current law, restorative justice victim-offender conferences must be initiated by the victim. As introduced, the bill modifies the requirement of victim initiation in some instances to permit district attorney or offender initiation. There is a restorative justice coordinating council established in the state court administrator’s office; the bill adds:

  • A member of the parole board;
  • A representative from the department of corrections;
  • A representative from a statewide organization representing victims; and
  • A restorative justice practitioner.

The restorative justice coordinating council shall develop a uniform restorative justice satisfaction evaluation. The council shall collect information regarding all existing restorative justice programs and practices and report that data to the house and senate judiciary committees by January 31, 2014.

The bill creates a pilot project for restorative justice programs in four judicial districts. At each site, if a juvenile who is under 18 years of age and could be charged in the petition with a misdemeanor and has not been previously charged or who has not participated in the pilot project, the district attorney shall assess the juvenile’s suitability for restorative justice. The district attorney may also refer any juvenile who is charged with a class 3, 4, 5, or 6 felony and has not been previously charged or who has not participated in the pilot project. If the district attorney determines that the juvenile is a suitable candidate for the restorative justice program, the district attorney may offer the juvenile an opportunity to participate in the restorative justice program. If the juvenile agrees to participate, the district attorney shall not file charges pending completion of the program. If the juvenile fails to complete the program, the district attorney may file a petition against the juvenile. The pilot project sites must annually report to the division of criminal justice in the department of public safety certain information on the pilot projects. The division of criminal justice shall prepare an annual report based on the information received.

The bill creates a $10 surcharge on all crimes to support a restorative justice fund. The fund will be used to defray the costs of restorative justice programs and administrative costs of the restorative justice coordinating council.

On March 26, the Judiciary Committee amended the bill and sent it to the Finance Committee.

HB 13-1163: Introducing Victim Emergency Payment Program for Medical Exams for Victims of Sexual Assault

On January 30, 2013, Rep. Dan Kagan and Sen. Irene Aguilar introduced HB 13-1163 – Concerning Payment for Medical Costs Associated with Obtaining a Medical Forensic Examination for Victims of Sexual OffensesThis summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The sexual assault victim emergency payment program (program) is created in the division of criminal justice (division) within the Department of Public Safety. The purpose of the program is to help victims of sexual assault who need additional time to determine if they want to participate with the criminal justice system to pay for medical costs and fees associated with obtaining a medical forensic examination, which ensures that evidence of the assault is preserved regardless of whether the criminal justice system is engaged at the time of the assault and examination. The program is the payor of last resort. The division shall determine an annual cap on payment amount per victim based on actual and reasonable costs and available funds. Priority for the program must be to pay for indirect medical costs and fees incurred as the result of obtaining medical forensic examinations following a sexual assault for medical-reporting victims. Such indirect medical costs and fees may include, but are not limited to, emergency department fees and costs, laboratory fees, prescription medication, and physician’s fees. The program may also pay for any uncovered direct costs of the medical forensic examination for a medical-reporting victim. On Feb. 14, the Judiciary Committee amended the bill and sent it to the Appropriations Committee for consideration of the fiscal impact.