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Following a stop and inventory search of his car, Therrold Quick was charged with possession of a weapon by a previous offender, violation of a protection order, driving under restraint, and violation of a traffic control signal. He moved to suppress a gun discovered during the search as the product of an unconstitutional seizure of his car. The State brought an interlocutory appeal of the district court’s order granting Quick’s motion to suppress the gun. The district court initially denied the motion, upon reconsideration in light of the court of appeals’ opinion in Colorado v. Brown, 2016 COA 150, __ P.3d __, it found that where Quick was merely cited, and not actually arrested, for driving with a suspended license, and where the only justification offered for seizing his car was instead the likelihood that he would continue to drive and thereby endanger public safety, the initial seizure of his car did not fall within the community caretaking exception to the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment. Because compliance with a departmental policy or procedure is insufficient in and of itself to bring the seizure of a vehicle within an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, and because seizing a vehicle to prevent the driver from continuing to drive with a suspended license does not fall within the specific community caretaking exception, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Quick" on Justia Law

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Carl Brown was charged with and convicted of possession with intent to distribute a schedule II controlled substance, stemming from the discovery of crack cocaine during an inventory search of his vehicle. He was sentenced to ten years in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections. The State petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing Brown’s drug-related conviction on the ground that his motion to suppress should have been granted. The district court found that the contraband in question was discovered during an inventory search of the defendant’s vehicle, the conduct of which was within the officers’ discretion according to the policies and procedures of the Aurora Police Department, even though they had already decided to issue a summons rather than arrest the defendant for driving with a suspended license. The court of appeals found that in the absence of an arrest, seizing the defendant’s vehicle so as to provoke an inventory of its contents could not be justified as an exercise of the police caretaking function, and in the absence of any other recognized exception to the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment, violated its prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Colorado Supreme Court found the trial court record failed to demonstrate that seizure of the defendant’s vehicle was justified as an exercise of the police caretaking function or was otherwise reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, regardless of local ordinances or police policies and procedures broad enough to grant the officers discretion to impound the vehicle of a driver merely summoned rather than arrested for driving with a suspended license, the judgment of the court of appeals thus affirmed. View "Colorado v. Brown" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute between two sisters, Shauna Sandstead-Corona (“Corona”) and Vicki Jo Sandstead (“Sandstead”), over how to divide their mother Auriel Sandstead’s (“Auriel”) estate. Prior to her death, Auriel placed proceeds from the sale of the family’s farm into a multi-party bank account (“Wells Fargo”) on which Sandstead and Corona were also signatories, with the intent that the money would transfer to Sandstead and Corona outside of probate upon Auriel’s death. With Auriel’s permission, Sandstead later moved a large portion of the funds into different bank accounts (“Citizens Bank”) that Corona could not access. Auriel subsequently died, and the court appointed Sandstead as the personal representative of Auriel’s probate estate. Corona filed a motion to surcharge Sandstead for her use of the funds removed from Wells Fargo and placed in Citizens Bank. The probate court held a hearing on Corona’s surcharge motion and determined that Sandstead’s custody of the funds prior to filing a probate proceeding was “in the nature of an implied trust,” and that Sandstead failed to account properly for the funds, thus warranting a surcharge for the unaccounted amounts. In the course of the probate proceeding, a pour-over will and related revocable trust executed by Auriel and her late husband were discovered. Corona contested the will and trust on the ground that Auriel and her husband had revoked the trust. The trial court rejected this contention, however, and further concluded that under the trust’s no-contest clause, because Corona had contested the will and trust, she forfeited all property that she would have inherited under the will. Both Sandstead and Corona appealed. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court had erred in surcharging Sandstead for her use of the farm proceeds. The division also affirmed the trial court’s determination regarding the no-contest clause. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider: (1) whether an implied trust could be imposed on the farm proceeds placed in Citizens Bank; (2) whether the fiduciary oversight statute in the probate code permitted the trial court to sanction Sandstead for actions taken prior to Auriel’s death and prior to appointment as personal representative of Auriel’s estate; (3) whether the trial court erred in applying the no-contest clause; and (4) whether Corona had probable cause to contest the will. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's ruling: (1) the trial court properly imposed an implied trust over at least a portion of the farm proceeds; (2) because an implied trust is included in the fiduciary oversight statute’s definition of an “estate,” the trial court could properly surcharge Sandstead for her malfeasance as to the funds in the implied trust; and (3) although the no-contest clause in the trust was incorporated by reference into the will, by its plain language, that clause applied only to actions contesting the trust, not challenges to the will. Accordingly, the trial court erred in enforcing the no-contest clause against Corona based on her actions contesting the will. The Court did not need to reach the final issue on which it granted certiorari. View "Sandstead-Corona v. Sandstead" on Justia Law

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Front Range Resources, LLC, a private company that owned or managed various water rights, applied for a replacement plan in the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin. Under the plan, Front Range sought to divert water from its existing water rights to recharge the Lost Creek Basin’s alluvial aquifer. It then planned to withdraw the recharged water by increasing the use of its existing wells and by constructing new wells. Defendants (parties that believed their water rights would be impaired by the plan) objected to Front Range’s replacement plan, and the Ground Water Commission ultimately dismissed Front Range’s application with prejudice, allowing Front Range to appeal to the district court. Meanwhile, Front Range and the City of Aurora entered into an option contract for Aurora to purchase some or all of the replacement-plan water upon the replacement plan’s approval. On appeal, the district court rejected Front Range’s use of water rights in the South Platte River in the replacement plan. It further found the replacement plan involved new appropriations and changes of water rights, triggering the anti-speculation doctrine. In granting summary judgment against Front Range, the district court concluded Front Range’s planned use of the replacement-plan water (including its option contract with Aurora) violated the anti-speculation doctrine. Some of the Defendants then pursued attorney fees, arguing Front Range’s claims lacked substantial justification. But the district court denied their motion. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court held the anti-speculation doctrine applied to replacement plans involving new appropriations or changes to designated ground water rights. Because Front Range could not demonstrate that it or Aurora would put the replacement-plan water to beneficial use, the district court did not err in granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Furthermore, the Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendants’ motion for attorney fees. View "Front Range Resources, LLC v. Colorado Ground Water Commission" on Justia Law

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The State sought review of a court of appeals judgment that reversed an amended restitution order that substantially increased defendant Franck Belibi after he was convicted. Following the acceptance of Belibi’s guilty plea, the imposition of a sentence to probation, including a stipulation to $4,728 restitution, and the entry of judgment, the district court amended its restitution order to require the payment of an additional $302,022 in restitution. The court of appeals held that in the absence of anything in the court’s written or oral pronouncements reserving a final determination of the amount of restitution, the initial restitution order had become final and could not be amended. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed: because a judgment of conviction, absent a statutorily authorized order reserving a determination of the final amount of restitution due, finalizes any specific amount already set, the sentencing court lacked the power to increase restitution beyond the previously set amount of $4,728. The judgment of the court of appeals was therefore affirmed. View "Colorado v. Belibi" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether defendant Jack Grynberg impliedly waived the physician–patient privilege by either: (1) requesting specific performance of a contract; or (2) denying plaintiffs’ allegations that he made irrational decisions. Grynberg asserted counterclaims for breach of contract against the plaintiffs, his children and former wife (“the Family”). According to Grynberg, he transferred his ownership interests in the businesses to the Family on the condition that he would remain in control of the businesses until his death. Grynberg alleged Family members expressed agreement to these terms either orally, in writing, or implicitly through their conduct. Then in 2016, the Family voted to remove Grynberg as president of each business, citing his declining mental health. Grynberg refused to comply. The Family filed suit, seeking a declaration that Grynberg no longer controlled the businesses and an injunction preventing him from representing the businesses. In its complaint, the Family asserted that Grynberg was exhibiting erratic behavior, making irrational decisions, and committing significant company funds to obviously fraudulent scam operations. In his amended answer, Grynberg denied the Family’s allegations and asserted counterclaims, including claims for breach of the lifetime-control agreement. Grynberg alleged that the Family’s breach of the oral or implied contract caused substantial monetary harm, and he sought “damages and/or specific performance” as relief. The trial court found that Grynberg impliedly waived the physician–patient privilege by asserting those counterclaims, and it ordered him to produce three years’ worth of mental health records for in-camera inspection. Grynberg petitioned the Supreme Court to review that ruling. Only privilege holders (patients) can impliedly waive the physician–patient privilege, and that they do so by injecting their physical or mental condition into the case as the basis of a claim or an affirmative defense. An adverse party cannot inject the patient’s physical or mental condition into a case through its defenses. Patients do not inject their mental condition into the case by denying the opposing party’s allegations. The Supreme Court found Grynberg did not inject his mental condition into the case as the basis of a claim by alleging that the Family breached a contract that does not reference his mental health. Likewise, he did not inject his mental condition into the case as the basis of a claim or an affirmative defense by denying the Family’s allegations that he made irrational decisions. Accordingly, the Court concluded Grynberg did not impliedly waive the physician–patient privilege and that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering Grynberg to produce his mental health records for in-camera inspection. View "Gadeco, LLC v. Grynberg" on Justia Law

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Carlos Meza pled guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to the Class A Traffic Infraction of “Limitations on backing.” Although defendant was present at the providency hearing, his guilty plea consisted merely of acknowledging his reading, understanding, and signing a standardized advisement and plea form, which was presented to the court by the prosecutor, along with an unsigned order for restitution in the amount of $150. The court accepted the plea, fined the defendant $100, ordered restitution, and signed both the completed advisement and plea form and the restitution order. Shortly thereafter, the State filed a motion for additional restitution, which was opposed by the defendant. In addition to legal argument before the trial court, both counsel made a number of further factual allegations concerning the incident, the reasons for the victim’s belief that his full damages would be, but were not, paid by defendant’s insurance company, and the plea negotiations. The county court ordered the requested additional amount of restitution, finding that the victim had suffered a loss of $936.85 that was not known to the State or the court at sentencing, when restitution was initially, but not finally, set at $150. On appeal, the district court, sitting as the court of direct appellate review (pursuant to the simplified procedure for county court convictions) found that the annotation “RR” on the form guilty plea was sufficient to reserve the final amount of restitution and that the record supported the county court’s finding of an additional loss not known at sentencing; it therefore affirmed the increase as having been sanctioned by section 18-1.3-603(3)(a) of the revised statutes. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed. Because a judgment of conviction, absent a statutorily authorized order reserving a determination of the final amount of restitution, finalizes any specific amount already set, and because the court ordered no reservation in this case, it lacked the power to increase the amount of restitution it had previously set. View "Meza v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Alfred Sandoval was charged with first degree assault (a class three felony), and possession of a weapon by a previous offender (a class five felony). Sandoval entered into a plea agreement to the reduced charge of felony menacing (a class five felony) in exchange for dismissal of the original charges. The plea agreement also provided that Sandoval would not be sentenced to the Department of Corrections (“DOC”). It did not include any stipulation to judicial fact-finding at sentencing. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the trial court plainly erred when it sentenced Sandoval to an aggravated community corrections sentence based on judicial fact-finding to which Sandoval did not stipulate. The Supreme Court found that it did: in affirming the court of appeals, the Supreme Court held that Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), applied to a direct sentence to community corrections. Furthermore, the Court held it was plain error for the trial court to sentence the defendant to an aggravated sentence to community corrections without meeting Blakely’s requirements. View "Colorado v. Sandoval" on Justia Law

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Carol Bishop and Mark Klosky (“Klosky”), and Shannon and Keith Love (the Loves) owned adjacent parcels of land in a residential neighborhood. Klosky wanted to remove a large tree sitting primarily on their property, but part of the tree sat on the Loves’ property. The Loves wanted to keep the tree. The controlling Colorado case law holds that when a tree encroaches onto a neighbor’s land, the tree remains the sole property of the owner of the land where the tree first grew, unless the tree was jointly planted, jointly cared for, or treated as a partition between the properties. Any such joint activity implied a shared property interest. Here, the trial court and appellate courts concurred the Loves failed to prove any such shared property interest, and the Colorado Supreme Court declined to overturn the prevailing case law. Thus, finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed rulings in Klosky’s favor. View "Love v. Klosky" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant James Washam, III was charged by information with twelve counts of sexual assault on a child. A portion of the charged date range fell outside of the applicable statute of limitations. After trial began, the prosecution successfully moved to amend the information, narrowing the date range so that it fell completely within the statute. Ultimately, Washam was convicted on all twelve counts. He appealed, arguing that under Colorado Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(e), the amendment to the date rate was a substantive amendment, and thus the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the change once trial began. A majority of the Court of Appeals agreed and vacated the convictions, further ordering the charges be dismissed with prejudice. The State appealed. Upon review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that because the amendment simply narrowed the date range in the information (and did not add an essential element to the offense or raise issues of inadequate notice), the amendment to the information was one of form and not substance. Furthermore, the Court found Washam’s substantial rights were not prejudiced, nor did the trial court abuse its discretion in allowing the amendment after trial began. The Court of Appeals was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Washam" on Justia Law