October 18, 2018

Colorado Supreme Court: Totality of Circumstances, Including Drug Dog’s Alert, Provided Probable Cause for Car Search

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Bailey on Monday, October 15, 2018.

Searches and Seizures—Probable Cause—Search Without Warrant—Odor Detection—Use of Dogs.

In this interlocutory appeal, the supreme court considered whether the trial court erred in ruling that state troopers lacked probable cause to search defendant’s car when they placed Mason, a narcotics-detecting dog, inside the car to sniff around. The court held that the totality of the circumstances, including Mason’s alert to the odor of narcotics while sniffing the exterior of defendant’s car, provided the troopers with probable cause to search the car. The fact that Mason’s alert was not a final indication did not render it irrelevant to the troopers’ probable cause determination. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court’s order suppressing evidence collected by the troopers during a subsequent hand search of the car.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Unique Facts of Case Permit Use of Self-Defense Instruction for Robbery of Taxi Services

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. DeGreat on Monday, October 15, 2018.

Self-Defense—Aggravated Robbery—Jury Instructions—Affirmative Defenses.

This case required the supreme court to decide whether a division of the court of appeals erred in concluding that the statutory right to self-defense can apply to justify a defendant’s robbery of taxi cab services. On the unique facts presented, the court concluded that the division correctly determined that defendant was entitled to a self-defense instruction as to the aggravated robbery charge, although the court’s reasoning differed from that on which the division relied. The court concluded that defendant presented some credible evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the robbery of services that he allegedly committed was committed in self-defense. Accordingly, the court affirmed the division’s judgment, albeit based on different reasoning.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Competency Records of Other Defendant in Related Case were Protected by Privilege

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Zapata v. People on Monday, October 15, 2018.

Physician-Patient Privilege—Psychologist-Client Privilege—Competency Evaluations—Res Gestae.

In this case, the trial court declined to give defendant access to, or to review in camera, competency reports regarding another defendant in a factually related but separate case. Over objection, the trial court also admitted uncharged misconduct evidence as res gestae.

The supreme court held that competency reports are protected by the physician-patient or psychologist-client privilege and that the examinee did not waive the privilege as to defendant when he put his competency in dispute in his own case. The court also held that defendant’s confrontation right was not implicated and that defendant did not make a sufficient showing that the competency reports contained exculpatory evidence to justify their release to him or review by the trial court pursuant to due process or Crim. P. 16.

The court further held that any error in admitting the uncharged misconduct evidence as res gestae was harmless given the strong evidence of defendant’s guilt.

Accordingly, the court of appeals’ judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Entry of Charge Based on Jury’s Special Interrogatory Answers Violated Defendant’s Constitutional Right to Jury Trial

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Oliver on Thursday, October 4, 2018.

Criminal Law—Possession of a Weapon by a Previous Offender—Right to Jury Trial—Waiver.

Defendant was tried on two felony menacing charges. Before trial, the parties agreed to bifurcate a possession of a weapon by a previous offender (POWPO) count. However, near the end of the trial, defense counsel agreed with the court’s suggestion of using a special interrogatory on possession instead of having a separate trial on the POWPO count after the jury returned its verdict on the menacing counts. Counsel also stipulated that defendant was a previous offender. The jury was not instructed on the POWPO charge. The jury acquitted defendant on one count and hung on the other. Based on the stipulation and the jury’s “yes” answer to the special interrogatory that asked whether defendant had possessed a firearm, the trial court entered a judgment of conviction for POWPO.

On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court directed a verdict on the POWPO charge in violation of his federal and state constitutional rights to a jury trial, which he did not personally waive. To return a verdict, a jury must have been instructed on the offense. Here, even if counsel stipulated to the prior offender element, defendant did not personally waive his right to have the jury return a verdict on the POWPO charge, and the trial court never told the jury that it was deciding the POWPO charge. Therefore, the judgment of conviction on the POWPO charge violated defendant’s constitutional right to a jury trial.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial on this charge.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Four-part Gallion Test Properly Applied in Determining Driver’s Attempt to Retract Refusal Untimely

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Schulte v. Colorado Department of Revenue on Thursday, September 20, 2018.

Criminal Law—Motor Vehicle—Express Consent—Blood or Breath Test—Refusal Untimely as a Matter of Law.

Police responded to a report of a car parked in the middle of a field. When an officer arrived, he found Schulte asleep in the car with the engine running. A deputy sheriff contacted Schulte and had him perform voluntary roadside maneuvers. Schulte did not perform the tests like a sober person, so the deputy asked him to submit to a chemical test under Colorado’s express consent law. Schulte refused. The deputy later arrested him, drove him to jail, turned him over to booking officers, and drove back to the scene. When the deputy returned to the jail, he completed the license revocation paperwork and began to serve Schulte with the notice of revocation. Before he could do so, Schulte asked to take a blood test. The deputy told him that it was too late. Schulte requested a Division of Motor Vehicles hearing to contest his license revocation. The hearing officer revoked his driving privileges, and the district court upheld the revocation.

On appeal, Schulte contended that the hearing officer and the district court erred when they decided, as a matter of law, that his retraction of his refusal was untimely. Colorado’s express consent law requires a driver to cooperate with law enforcement’s request to take a blood or breath test. If a licensee refuses to submit to a test, law enforcement must serve a notice of revocation on him or her and then take possession of the driver’s license. If a licensee does not offer to retract an initial refusal while the officer remains engaged in requesting or directing the completion of the test, the attempted retraction is untimely as a matter of law. Here, substantial evidence supports the hearing officer’s determination that Schulte did not cooperate with the deputy while the deputy was engaged in requesting or directing the test. The retraction of the refusal was untimely as a matter of law.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Imposition of Valid Sentence Ends Criminal Court’s Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Chavez on Thursday, September 20, 2018.

Criminal Procedure—Post-Conviction Remedies—Search Warrant—Crim. P. 35—Return of Property—Sentencing—Jurisdiction.

In 2004, the police obtained a warrant to search Chavez’s house as part of an investigation and seized evidence they used to charge Chavez in five separate criminal cases, none of which underlie this appeal. In the case underlying this appeal, Chavez pleaded guilty to both sexual assault and kidnapping and was sentenced for those crimes. Three years later, Chavez moved the criminal court for the return of the items seized during the search of his house. The district court denied the motion on the merits.

On appeal, Chavez contended that the district court erred in denying his motion for return of property. The imposition of sentence ends a criminal court’s subject matter jurisdiction, with the sole exception of motions brought under Crim. P. 35. Because a motion for return of property is not authorized by Crim. P. 35, criminal courts do not have jurisdiction over such motions made after sentencing. Thus, the criminal court lacked jurisdiction to address the merits of Chavez’s motion.

The order denying Chavez’s motion was vacated for lack of jurisdiction.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Court Need Not Make Findings Regarding Whether Restitution Would Cause “Serious Hardship or Injustice” to Juvenile

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of A.V. on Thursday, September 20, 2018.

Juvenile Delinquency—Sentencing—Restitution—Waiver—Evidence—Reasonableness.

A.V. was arrested in connection with a series of home and business burglaries. The victim businesses included Animal Attractions Pet Store (Animal Attractions) and the Country Inn Restaurant (Country Inn). Country Inn sustained extensive fire damage in the burglary, and the fire destroyed most of the business. As part of a global case disposition, A.V. pleaded guilty to some counts in exchange for dismissal of other counts, stipulating to a factual basis and agreeing to pay restitution to all victims, including those in the dismissed cases. The juvenile court ordered restitution of $1,000 to Country Inn’s owner for the deductible and $681,600 to Country Inn’s insurer for the repair work. The juvenile court further found that the loss amounts submitted by Animal Attractions and its insurer in the victim impact statements sufficiently established the victims’ losses to order restitution in the amount requested.

On appeal, A.V. contended that no facts exist to show that he caused the Country Inn fire and that the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proving proximate cause for these claimed losses. Here, A.V. waived his challenge to proximate cause by (1) stipulating to a factual basis in the plea agreement and at the providency hearing; (2) stipulating to pay restitution to the victims of the dismissed counts (in this case the arson count) in the plea agreement; (3) agreeing with the prosecutor before the restitution hearing that A.V.’s stipulated factual bases in all cases included a stipulation to causation; and (4) asking the court to order $470,874.47 for losses related to the dismissed arson count.

A.V. next contended that the juvenile court erroneously ordered him to pay the estimated repair costs to Country Inn’s insurer, rather than actual costs incurred to date. Here, the prosecution presented competent evidence of the estimated expenses, which A.V. did not rebut. Therefore, the juvenile court did not err.

A.V. also contended that the invoices submitted with Animal Attractions’ victim impact statement were insufficient to establish restitution and that the prosecution was required to present witness testimony to satisfy its burden. The restitution statute does not require the prosecution to present evidence in the form of testimony. Here, because the documents support the court’s order and A.V. offered no rebuttal evidence, the juvenile court’s order was not an abuse of discretion.

A.V. last contended that the juvenile court was required to make specific reasonableness findings before ordering restitution and that $692,806.20 was not a reasonable amount of restitution to be awarded against an incarcerated juvenile. However, the statute’s plain language mandates that the juvenile court order full restitution for the victims’ losses, and the juvenile court is not required to make specific reasonableness findings before imposing restitution.

The restitution orders were affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Error in Denying Defendant His Tendered Self-Defense Instruction Not Harmless

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Koper on Thursday, September 20, 2018.

Criminal Law—Jury Instructions—Self-Defense—Transferred Intent—Affirmative Defense—Prosecutorial Misconduct.

While at a bar, defendant said something to Abram’s sister that offended Abram. Defendant tried to make amends by offering Abram a beer. Abram responded by punching defendant twice in the face. Defendant then drew his firearm, for which he had a concealed carry permit, and aimed it at Abram. After a short standoff, defendant handed the gun to his fiancée and the two left the bar. A jury found defendant guilty of two counts of felony menacing and prohibited possession of a firearm. The first count of felony menacing named the alleged victim as a security guard who had stepped between defendant and Abram after defendant drew his weapon; the second count named the alleged victim as another bar patron who had been sitting near Abram.

On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court erred in rejecting his jury instructions on the affirmative defense of self-defense. Here, defendant raised credible evidence that he acted in self-defense against Abram. Defendant’s intent to defend himself against Abram would, if the jury believed his testimony, allow the intent as to Abram to transfer to the encounter with the alleged victims. Thus, the trial court erred in rejecting defendant’s jury instructions on self-defense as an affirmative defense to the menacing charges. Further, the error was not harmless because while the defense’s theory of the case instruction referred generally to self-defense, the instruction did not require the prosecution to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defendant also contended that prosecutorial misconduct required reversal of his conviction for possession of a firearm while intoxicated. Here, the prosecutor asked defendant 44 times whether another witness’s testimony was incorrect, wrong, or untrue, or whether the witness had lied; this went beyond asking non-prejudicial questions designed to highlight discrepancies in the evidence. The error was plain and warranted reversal.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial on all charges.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Due Process Violated When Jury Could Not See Defendant During Children’s Testimony

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Aldridge on Thursday, September 20, 2018.

Criminal Law—Right to Confrontation—Right to be Present During Trial—Child Testimony—Closed Circuit Television.

C.O. and L.A. spent about three weeks camping alone with Aldridge, their maternal grandfather. At the time, C.O. was 4 years old and L.A. was 9 years old. Both girls alleged that they had touched Aldridge’s penis during the camping trip and that it got stiff. A jury found Aldridge guilty of two counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust as part of a pattern of abuse, two counts of sexual assault on a child as part of a pattern of abuse, four counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust—victim under 15, four counts of sexual assault on a child, and two counts of aggravated incest. The trial court sentenced him to 116 years to life in the custody of the Department of Corrections.

On appeal, Aldridge contended that the trial court erred by excluding him from the courtroom while C.O. and L.A. testified. Before trial, the People moved for C.O. and L.A. to testify by closed-circuit television under C.R.S. § 16-10-402. Over Aldridge’s objection, the trial court granted the motion. Neither the trial court nor the parties indicated that Aldridge, rather than the children, would be removed from the courtroom. At trial, rather than having the witnesses testify from another room, the trial court permitted the children to testify in the courtroom while the judge and defendant watched from the judge’s chambers. The jury could not see or hear defendant during the children’s testimony. Aldridge’s exclusion from the courtroom during the children’s testimony, in the absence of a stipulation, violated C.R.S. § 16-10-402, and this procedure violated defendant’s due process right to be present because he was denied an opportunity to exert a psychological influence on the jury. This error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judgment and sentence were reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Exclusionary Rule Correctly Applied to Suppress Results of Illegal Collection of Juvenile’s DNA

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Casillas v. People on Monday, September 24, 2018.

Evidence—Searches and Seizures—Exclusionary Rule.

In this criminal appeal, the supreme court reviewed whether the exclusionary rule required the suppression of evidence derived from a juvenile probation officer’s unauthorized collection of DNA from a juvenile in violation of C.R.S. § 19-2-925.6 and the Fourth Amendment. The court held that (1) juvenile probation officers are properly considered adjuncts to law enforcement; (2) the officer’s collection of the juvenile’s DNA for uploading to CODIS served an inherent law enforcement function; (3) nothing in the record suggests the officer conducted the buccal swab search in reliance on misinformation provided by a third party; and (4) the unlawful search here was not based on a reasonable misinterpretation of the law. Because suppression would have a deterrent effect by removing incentives to collect DNA from ineligible juvenile offenders, the court held that suppression was warranted. Accordingly, the court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case with instructions to vacate petitioner’s conviction.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: No Error in Trial Court’s Decision Not to Allow Witness to Testify Via Skype

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

Motions to Continue—Abuse of Discretion.

In this interlocutory appeal, the supreme court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the People’s request to have their witness testify remotely via Skype. Trial courts have broad discretion to control the manner in which witnesses offer testimony, and a decision to prohibit a witness from testifying is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Because the trial court worked extensively to accommodate the witness, the People were on notice about the importance of the witness appearing in-person, and because denying the People’s request to allow the witness to testify remotely is not outcome determinative, the court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Evidence of Guilt Overwhelming so Any Error in Failing to Discharge Alternate Juror was Harmless

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

Jury Deliberations—Conduct Affecting Jurors—Risk of Prejudice—Harmless Error.

James sought review of the court of appeals’ judgment affirming his conviction for possession of methamphetamine. Upon realizing that it had failed to discharge the alternate juror before the jury retired to deliberate, the district court recalled and dismissed the alternate, instructed the jury to continue with deliberations uninfluenced by anything the alternate may have said or done, and denied the defense motion for dismissal or mistrial. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court’s error in allowing the alternate juror to retire with the jury and the juror’s presence for part of the deliberations were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and, after rejecting James’s other assignments of error, affirmed his conviction. The supreme court held that the evidence proving defendant’s guilt of the offense of possession was overwhelming, and therefore the district court’s failure to recall an alternate juror for approximately 10 minutes amounted, under the facts of the case, to harmless error. Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.