June 25, 2019

Annual Update to Colorado Model Criminal Jury Instructions Released

On Tuesday, January 29, 2019, the Colorado State Judicial Branch announced the release of the Colorado Supreme Court’s annual update to the Model Jury Instructions for Criminal Trials. The update incorporates new legislation and published case law that has been announced since the last update. The update includes revisions to the instructions concerning complicity and judicial notice.

The Model Jury Instructions for Criminal Trials are available here for download in PDF and Microsoft Word format. For questions concerning the Model Jury Instructions for Criminal Trials, email the committee.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Police Officers Are Public Servants as Contemplated by C.R.S. § 18-8-306

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Sena on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Defendant was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his cousin when Greeley Police Officer Bridge pulled the vehicle over for a traffic infraction. Officer Pfeiler, who was assisting, asked defendant for his name and birth date. Defendant provided the name of a relative and a birth date that was not his own. The officers could not find any record of a person with the name and birth date provided by Defendant. The officers let the vehicle go with a warning, but Officer Pfeiler investigated the false name further and found a picture of Defendant, who happened to share a last name with the vehicle’s driver. The two officers agreed with certainty that the person in the picture was the same person who was the vehicle’s passenger. They then located an active arrest warrant for Defendant from a neighboring county.

Defendant was charged with one count of attempt to influence a public servant pursuant to C.R.S. § 18-8-306. A jury convicted him and he was sentenced to 6 months of probation with 90 days in the county jail and 100 hours of community service. Defendant appealed, arguing (1) the prosecution’s evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to support his conviction for attempt to influence a public servant, and (2) the district court erred by taking judicial notice of his outstanding warrant at trial and improperly instructing the jury on judicial notice.

The Colorado Court of Appeals first addressed Defendant’s contention that police officers do not fall within the statutory definition of “public servant.” The court noted that the statute includes any officer or employee of government, whether elected or appointed, and police officers clearly fell within the statutory definition. Defendant argued that the phrase “whether elected or appointed” should be construed to exclude any government employees who were not elected or appointed, but the court disagreed, noting that even if it agreed with Defendant’s construction the employees were “appointed” for purposes of the statute. Defendant also argued that because other statutes excluded “peace officers” from their definitions of public servant, they should be excluded here as well. The court of appeals disagreed, finding those statutes acknowledged that peace officers were generally considered public servants.

Defendant also argued that the prosecution could not prove his intent in providing the false name. However, the prosecution only needed to provide sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to conclude that Defendant anticipated a different result if he would have provided his true identity. The court found that a rational trier of fact could have concluded that the evidence was sufficient that Defendant intended to alter the officers’ actions through deceit.

Defendant also contended the court erred in taking judicial notice of his arrest warrant. The court of appeals perceived no error. The fact that the warrant arose in another jurisdiction was of no consequence, and the court’s taking of judicial notice did not invade the province of the jury because the warrant was not an element of the crime charged.

The court of appeals affirmed Defendant’s conviction.

Colorado Supreme Court: Error for Trial Court to Take Judicial Notice of Defendant’s Absence in Court

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Doyle v. People on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.

Colorado Rules of Evidence—Judicial Notice.

Defendant petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment affirming his conviction for violating a condition of his bail bond. At the request of the prosecution, the trial court took judicial notice of the fact that defendant failed to appear in court on a particular day, as mandated by the relevant condition of his bond. The court instructed the jury that although it need not accept this judicially noticed fact as true, a judicially noticed fact is one that the court has determined is not the subject of reasonable dispute and one that the court has accepted as true.

The Supreme Court reversed. The resolution of a factual matter at issue in a prior judicial proceeding does not become an indisputable fact within the contemplation of CRE 201 because it was reflected in a court record. Accordingly, the trial court erred in taking judicial notice that defendant failed to appear in court on a particular day. Because the jury was instructed that this judicially noticed fact was not subject to reasonable dispute and had already been accepted as true by the court, the error was not harmless.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Did Not Abuse Discretion by Taking Judicial Notice of Facts in Its Own File

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Doyle on Thursday, May 9, 2013.

Bond—Judicial Notice—Bias.

Defendant Eric Marcus Doyle appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of violating a condition of his bail bond. The judgment was affirmed.

Doyle was arrested and charged with theft and conspiracy to commit theft stemming from his involvement in an attempt to sell a water pump to a scrap metal processor. After Doyle was booked into jail, he posted a $3,000 bond. As a condition of his bond, he was required to appear in court on March 8, 2011. Doyle failed to appear on that date.

Doyle contended that the trial court abused its discretion in taking judicial notice of the facts contained in its file. Specifically, the trial court took judicial notice of the following facts: Doyle was accused of theft and conspiracy to commit theft and was required to appear in court on March 8, 2011; he failed to appear. The prosecution presented no further evidence. The trial court properly instructed the jury—both orally and in writing—that it could accept or reject the judicially noticed facts, and the court did not comment on Doyle’s mental state. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in judicially noticing the facts contained in its own file.

Summary and full case available here.