Justia Colorado Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

by
Julian Deleon was charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child. During his trial, Deleon exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self- incrimination and elected not to testify. At the jury instruction conference prior to closing arguments, Deleon tendered an instruction regarding a defendant’s right to remain silent, which the trial court denied because it did not match the pattern instruction. Instead, the court indicated that it would give that pattern instruction. But at the close of evidence, the trial court never instructed the jury regarding Deleon’s right to remain silent either verbally or in writing. Deleon argued this constituted reversible error. Under the facts of this case, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed and reversed for further proceedings. View "Deleon v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
Deputies interrogated Jacob Davis in the basement of his parents’ home about an alleged sexual assault. At that time, Davis made some incriminating statements. He moved to suppress those statements, arguing they were obtained in violation of his Miranda rights. The trial court granted his motion to suppress, finding Davis was subjected to a custodial interrogation without having first been given a Miranda advisement. The State appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court determined Davis was not in custody at the time for the purposes of Miranda, so it reversed the trial court’s suppression order. View "Colorado v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
Derrick Carrera pled guilty to possession of one gram or less of a schedule I controlled substance, a class 6 felony, in August 2010. Consistent with the parties’ plea agreement, in October 2010, the district court placed Carrera on a two-year deferred judgment and required the probation department to supervise him. The court imposed certain conditions of supervision, including the payment of $1,183.50 in fees and costs. No restitution was requested or ordered. In September 2012, Carrera and his case manager filed a joint motion requesting that the deferred judgment be extended for six months, from October 4, 2012, when it was scheduled to expire, until April 4, 2013. The motion explained that the extension was necessary “[t]o allow [Carrera] more time in which to complete his Court-ordered obligations.” It then specified that Carrera still owed some of the fees and costs imposed. The prosecution did not object, and the district court granted the motion and extended the deferred judgment. On April 2, 2013, Carrera’s case manager submitted a complaint to revoke the deferred judgment, alleging that Carrera had failed to pay $938.50 of the fees and costs and to complete outpatient treatment. Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court found that the prosecution had proven both of the alleged violations, and revoked Carrera’s deferred judgment, entered a judgment of conviction, and sentenced him to unsupervised probation for a period of one year. Carrera appealed. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on the interpretation of section 18-1.3-102(1), C.R.S. (2019), as it read between 2002 and 2012. That statute authorized trial courts to place a defendant on a deferred judgment and sentence “except that such period may be extended for an additional time up to one hundred eighty days” if the payment of restitution was the only condition of supervision not yet fulfilled. In a “fractured” opinion, the court of appeals determined that the language of section 18-1.3-102(1) was ambiguous because the parties’ diametrically opposed constructions were both reasonable. It then concluded that “other interpretive aids must be consulted” and that “those interpretive aids refute [Carrera’s] reading of the statute and support the [prosecution’s] interpretation.” The Supreme Court concurred with the appellate court’s analysis and affirmed judgment. View "Carrera v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
R.B. was knocked cold from behind when trying to enter a locked door to a bar. His belongings were taken. Police identified defendant Johnny Delgado as someone fleeing the scene. Police caught Delgado, who was eventually convicted of both theft from a person and robbery based on a single taking. But theft from a person was the unlawful taking of an item without force, and robbery was the unlawful taking of an item with force. Thus, based on the elements, it appears that Delgado was both convicted and absolved of taking R.B.’s belongings without force. And he was both convicted and absolved of taking R.B.’s belongings with force. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded these verdicts could not be legally or logically reconciled: elements of the two convictions were mutually exclusive. The State argued that as remedy, even if the verdicts were mutually exclusive, the cure was to maximize the convictions by throwing out the lesser theft-from-a-person conviction. Delgado countered that double jeopardy required striking both convictions. The appellate court took a middle ground and concluded that, here, the solution was a new trial. To this, the Supreme Court concurred: “Because such mutually exclusive convictions leave us without a meaningful way to discern the jury’s intent, the proper remedy is a new trial.” View "Colorado v. Delgado" on Justia Law

by
Kyle Brooks was convicted by jury of two class 4 felony counts for victim tampering. The the trial court adjudicated him to be a habitual criminal based on two prior felony convictions, including his guilty plea to theft from a person. As a result, the court sentenced him to twenty-four years in prison. Brooks claimed on appeal of that conviction his prior theft from a person conviction was constitutionally invalid. The issue presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether the record established by a preponderance of the evidence whether Brooks understood the elements of theft from a person when he previously pleaded guilty. After that review, the Supreme Court concluded that it did, and held that Brooks’s prior guilty plea to theft from a person was constitutionally valid. The Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals on different grounds. View "Brooks v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
At the time of the dissolution of their marriage, Ryan Boettcher (“father”) and Christina Boettcher (“mother”) agreed that neither party would pay child support. Several years later, mother, citing a substantial change in father’s income, sought a modification of the original decree so that she could receive child support. The district court conducted an evidentiary hearing to determine whether modification was appropriate. At the hearing, the parties admitted evidence of their incomes showing that mother earned $13,343 per month and father earned $92,356 per month—a combined monthly income far exceeding the highest combined income of $30,000 per month listed in the schedule contained in the statutory child support guidelines. Father requested that the district court impose a monthly child support obligation of $1,424.82, which would be the presumptive award amount if the parties combined income were $30,000 per month. Father argued that the presumptive amount of child support for that income level was also the presumptive amount for any higher income level. If the court ordered a higher payment, father argued, such payment would constitute a deviation from the statutory presumptive amount and would require specific findings under section 14-10-115(8)(e) C.R.S. (2019). Mother disagreed, contending the district court should extrapolate father’s monthly child support obligations from the uppermost level of the guidelines in light of the parties’ actual combined income. This approach would result in a monthly support payment of $5,024. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the plain language of the statute provided that the uppermost award identified explicitly in the schedule was the minimum presumptive award for families with higher incomes, and the district court could, within its discretion, aware more than that amount so long as the court supports its order with findings made pursuant to 14-10-115(2)(b). View "In re Marriage of Boettcher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court in this case was how Colorado’s Department of State (“the Department”) charged for some of its services to fund its general operations, which included overseeing elections. It was this funding scheme that the National Federation of Independent Business (“NFIB”) argued was unconstitutional under the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (“TABOR”). Section 24-21-104(3)(b), C.R.S. (2019), directed the Department to “adjust its fees so that the revenue generated from the fees approximates [the Department’s] direct and indirect costs.” This fluctuating scheme for self-funding had been in place for nearly thirty years, predating TABOR by nearly a decade. There had been adjustments to charges since TABOR’s enactment; NFIB contended these adjustments violated TABOR: (1) by actually being taxes, because there was no reasonable relationship between the Department’s charges and the government functions funded by the charges; and (2) any increase in the charges after TABOR’s enactment in 1992 constituted either a new tax, an increase in a tax rate, or a tax policy change - all requiring voter approval, which never occurred. Because the Supreme Court disagreed with NFIB’s second contention, it did not address its first. Based on the stipulated facts, the Supreme Court concluded there was no evidence to establish that any post-TABOR adjustments resulted in a new tax, tax rate increase, or tax policy change directly causing a net revenue gain. Thus, the trial court properly granted summary judgment. View "Griswold v. Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus." on Justia Law

by
Defendants Mark Iannicelli and Eric Brandt stood in the plaza square adjacent to a Denver Colorado courthouse, asking people entering the courthouse whether they were reporting for jury duty. If any of these people answered affirmatively, then Iannicelli and Brandt would hand them one or more brochures discussing the concept of jury nullification, which the brochures defined as the process by which a jury in a criminal case acquits the defendant regardless of whether he or she has broken the law in question. As a result of this conduct, the State charged Iannicelli and Brandt with multiple counts of jury tampering under Colorado’s jury tampering statute, section 18-8-609(1), C.R.S. (2019). Iannicelli and Brandt moved to dismiss these charges, contending that section 18-8-609(1) violates the First Amendment both on its face and as applied to them because, among other reasons, the statute results in an unconstitutionally overbroad restriction on free speech. The district court ultimately granted this motion, concluding that the jury tampering statute was unconstitutional as applied to Iannicelli and Brandt, and the State appealed. A division of the court of appeals affirmed the dismissal orders, although it did so without reaching the constitutional question. The Colorado Supreme Court was thus tasked with determining whether the appellate court properly interpreted the jury tampering statute. The Supreme Court found the appellate court's conclusion that the statute prohibited only attempts to influence seated jurors or for those selected for a venire from which a jury in a particular case will be chosen too narrow, though it agreed that the statute required that a defendant’s effort to influence a juror must be directed to a specifically identifiable case. Because the State did not charge Iannicelli and Brandt with such conduct, the Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court's judgment. View "Colorado v. Iannicelli" on Justia Law

by
Frederick Allman was convicted of seven counts of identity theft, two counts of forgery, and one count each of attempted identity theft, aggravated motor vehicle theft, and theft from an at-risk elder. He was sentenced to a total of fifteen years in the Colorado Department of Corrections (“DOC”), followed by a five-year period of parole. On one of the forgery counts, he was sentenced to ten years of probation to be served consecutively to his DOC sentence, but concurrently with his mandatory parole. Allman appealed his convictions for identity theft, raising several issues regarding his sentencing. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence. In his petition for review by the Colorado Supreme Court, Allman contended: (1) identity theft was a continuing offense; (2) because identity theft was a continuing offense, his convictions for the eight identity theft counts should have merged at sentencing; (3) some of his convictions were based on identical evidence and thus require concurrent sentences; and (4) the court could not legally sentence him to both imprisonment and probation for different counts in the same case. The Colorado Supreme Court disagreed identity theft was a continuing offense, so the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Allman separately on the eight counts of identity theft. Further, none of the evidence supporting the identity theft counts and forgery counts was identical, therefore it was within the trial court's discretion whether to sentence Allman to consecutive sentences on those counts. And finally, the Supreme Court held that when a court sentences a defendant for multiple offenses in the same case, it could not impose imprisonment for certain offenses and probation for others. Thus the COurt affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for resentencing. View "Allman v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
The Luskin Daughters 1996 Trust for the benefit of Lyndell Joy Luskin Ackerman, appealed a water court order dismissing its complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as for damages. The complaint alleged that the Trust and Steve and Heather Young owned adjacent parcels of land; that in 2017 the Youngs built a house that destroyed one or more ditches that had historically delivered spring water to the Trust’s property; and that those water rights had been used on the Trust’s property for purposes of irrigation, animal watering, wildlife, and recreation. The water court concluded that in the absence of an application for the determination of a water right, the Trust’s claim of interference by the Youngs with its unadjudicated appropriative rights to springs that arose on the Youngs’ land could not proceed before the water court. It therefore granted the Youngs’ motion, pursuant to C.R.C.P. 12(b)(1), (2), or (5), to dismiss. The Colorado Supreme Court found that while appropriation by diverting a specific amount of water and applying it to a beneficial purpose may entitle the appropriator to adjudicate a water right, according to the provisions of the applicable Colorado water law, it cannot afford a priority of use, even with respect to another specific user, without formal adjudication of a water right, in a specific amount, for a specific purpose, and relative to a specific structure for diversion. Therefore, the Court concluded the water court did not err in dismissing the Trust’s complaint. View "The Luskin Daughters 1996 Trust v. Young" on Justia Law