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In an interlocutory appeal, the issue presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the trial court erred in suppressing a statement made by defendant Justin Cline after a search of his residence by his parole officer and a member of the Craig, Colorado Police Department. The search netted a zippered pouch containing drug paraphernalia that tested positive for methamphetamine. The trial court found that when Corporal Grant Laehr confronted Cline with the zippered pouch and questioned him, Cline was “effectively under arrest” and “not free to leave.” The trial court reiterated that once Cline was confronted with the zippered pouch, “a reasonable person in [his] position would not have believed he was free to leave.” The trial court ruled that any subsequent questions should have been preceded by an advisement pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Since no such advisement was provided, the trial court suppressed Cline’s statements. The Supreme Court reversed, finding the trial court applied the wrong legal standard. “[W]hen viewed in conjunction with the other circumstances present, it is insufficient to warrant a determination that Cline was in custody and that Corporal Laehr was required to read him his Miranda rights. Because the trial court applied the wrong legal standard and treated as dispositive the fact that Corporal Laehr confronted Cline with the zippered pouch, we reverse its suppression order and remand for further proceedings.” View "Colorado v. Cline" on Justia Law

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In 2008, defendant-appellees Roger Brooks and Veryl Goodnight (together “Brooks”) filed an application in the water court to change the point of diversion of their water right from the Giles Ditch to the Davenport Ditch. The application and the required notice published in the local newspaper misidentified the section and range in which the Davenport Ditch headgate was located. However, both referred repeatedly to the Davenport Ditch. Brooks successfully moved to amend the application with the correct section and range shortly afterward. The water court, finding that “no person [would] be injured by the amendment,” concluded that republication of the notice was unnecessary. Eight years later, plaintiff-appellant Gary Sheek filed this action in the water court, seeking judgment on five claims for relief: (1) declaratory judgment that Brooks’ decree was void for insufficient notice; (2) quiet title to a prescriptive access easement for the Davenport Ditch, including ancillary access rights; (3) trespass; (4) theft and interference with a water right; and (5) a permanent injunction prohibiting Brooks from continued use of the Davenport Ditch. After concluding that sufficient notice was provided, the water court granted Brooks’ motion for summary judgment and deemed the trespass and injunction claims moot in light of that ruling. The court then dismissed the prescriptive easement claim as well as the theft and interference claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the water court’s conclusion that the published notice was sufficient. As a result, all of the remaining claims should have been dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Sheek v. Brooks" on Justia Law

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Chris Bermel contracted to provide engineering services for BlueRadios, Inc., a wireless data and voice communications company. In 2014, Bermel knowingly forwarded thousands of company emails containing proprietary information to his personal email account without authorization. For this conduct, the trial court found Bermel liable for breach of contract and for civil theft under section 18-4-405, C.R.S. (2018). The statute allowed the rightful owner of stolen property to recover the greater of $200 or three times the actual damages sustained, as well as costs and reasonable attorney fees. Bermel argued BlueRadios’ remedies were limited to those for breach of contract, and that Colorado’s economic loss rule barred BlueRadios’ claim for civil theft. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the judge-made economic loss rule could not bar a statutory cause of action. View "Bermel v. BlueRadios, Inc." on Justia Law

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Tommy Gow was walking in a residential neighborhood at abut 2:15 in the morning when he was stopped by police. The deputy pulled up, got out of his patrol car, and asked “what he was up to.” The man, Gow, responded that he had just come from a friend’s house where he had purchased an iPad. He asked the deputy if the deputy wanted to see his identification; and after checking to make sure that Gow had no outstanding warrants, the deputy told Gow that he was free to leave. The deputy decided to drive down the street and leave the area. As he was about to pass, Gow began waving his hands at the deputy and signaled for the deputy to roll down his window. The deputy stopped and rolled down the passenger side window. Gow asked the deputy to give him a ride to his friend’s house, which was four blocks away. The deputy replied, “Sure,” but said that he had to pat Gow down before allowing him to get into the car, to ensure that Gow did not have any weapons or anything illegal on him. According to the deputy, Gow responded, “Okay. I don’t have weapons.” At that point, the deputy got out of his patrol car, patted down Gow, and asked to look inside the box again, to ensure that no weapons were hidden underneath the iPad in the box. Gow said, “Sure,” and as he pulled out the iPad, the box fell to the ground and two small plastic baggies fell out. The deputy directed Gow to hand him the baggies, and Gow complied. The deputy then asked what was in them, and Gow responded that it was speed. The deputy arrested Gow and transported him to jail. The Colorado Supreme Court was asked to decide whether Gow’s federal and state constitutional rights were violated when he was subjected to a pat down and search of a box that he was carrying before accepting a courtesy ride with a sheriff’s deputy. The Court concluded the pat down and search of the box were constitutionally permissible because on the facts as found by the trial court, Gow initiated the encounter with the deputy by asking for a courtesy ride and then voluntarily and expressly consented to the pat down and search of the box as preconditions of getting into the deputy’s car. View "Gow v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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A series of appeals concerned a dispute over competing rights to irrigation tail and waste water that collected in a borrow ditch. The Colorado Supreme Court was asked to determine whether a driveway that interrupted the flow of water in the ditch rendered the sections of borrow ditch on either side of the driveway separate sources of water for purposes of the postponement doctrine. S. Cade and Bradley Huffaker and a neighboring landowner, Lee Crowther, filed competing applications for rights to this water. The Huffakers filed their application in 2013; Crowther filed his in 2016. The Huffakers argued that under the postponement doctrine, they were entitled to the senior right in the borrow ditch water because they filed their application first. The water court held that the postponement doctrine did not apply here because it concluded the water rights claimed by the Huffakers and Crowther did not derive from the same source. Therefore, the court held that Crowther’s right to divert water at the culvert was not junior to the Huffakers’ right, even though Crowther’s application was filed two and a half years after the Huffakers’ application. The Huffakers appealed, again contending that the postponement doctrine applied to determine the priority of the applicants’ competing rights to the water in the borrow ditch, and that they were entitled to the senior priority because they filed their application first. They further argued the collection area of their absolute water right began not at the driveway, but farther south (upstream) at the same point as Crowther’s right. The Supreme Court agreed with both contentions and reversed the water court. View "Concerning the Application for Water Rights of S. Cade Huffaker" on Justia Law

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Brent Berdahl was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. On an early January morning, a sheriff's deputy was dispatched to an intersection to check on the well-being of two people whose truck broke down. The deputy saw a man walking alongside the highway about half of a mile from the reported location of the truck. The man, defendant Berdahl, was not dressed for the weather. The deputy offered Berdahl a ride back to the truck to allow Berdahl's significant other (J.P.) in the back of the patrol car to warm up. Prior to letting Berdahl into the back of the car, the deputy conducted a brief pat-down search for weapons. After learning that Berdahl and J.P. had been stranded for much of the evening and that no one was available to come get or offer any assistance to them, a state patrol officer who had arrived to assist the sheriff deputy, offered to transport the couple to the nearest gas station. They accepted the offer and collected their personal items from the truck. The sergeant then explained that before allowing them to get into his car, he “was just going to conduct a quick pat-down frisk for any weapons,” at which point Berdahl immediately went over to the trunk of the patrol car, put his hands on the trunk, and spread his legs to allow the sergeant to conduct the pat down. During the search, the patrol officer felt a hard cylindrical object on Berdahl's ankle, which was late revealed to be a methamphetamine pipe. When they arrived at the gas station, the sergeant gave J.P. some of his own money so that she could get help, and she went into the station. The sergeant then looked inside the blue bag, where he found a small plastic baggy containing a while crystalline substance, which he believed to be methamphetamine. He then arrested Berdahl. This case principally asked the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether Brent Berdahl’s federal and state constitutional rights were violated when the law enforcement officer required him to submit to a pat-down search before providing a consensual ride in the officer’s police car. The Supreme Court concluded that when Berdahl accepted the officer’s offer of a courtesy ride in the officer’s car and then submitted to a brief pat down for weapons before getting into the car, he, by his conduct, voluntarily consented to the officer’s limited pat-down search, and therefore, the search was constitutional. View "Colorado v. Berdahl" on Justia Law

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This case involved the joinder of two separately filed cases. In the first “Motorcycle Case,”: in three separate instances, a male motorcyclist wearing a leather jacket and a motorcycle helmet that largely concealed his face approached women who were driving or parked in their cars. In each incident, the assailant showed a gun, directed the victims to move or remove parts of their clothing and expose themselves to him, and demanded that the victims give him some of their belongings. At the time of these incidents, none of the victims identified defendant James Bondsteel as the assailant. In the second “Signal Mountain Trail Case,” a man on foot attacked two women on a hiking trail. The man was dressed in full camouflage and a long parka, and his face was covered by a balaclava. He accosted the women, threatening them with a knife and cutting the hand and arm of one of them. In the course of this attack, the assailant had one of the women on the ground with his knife to her throat, lifted her shirt, opened her shorts and looked down them. The women managed to escape after hitting the man in the head with a walking stick and rocks, and, in separate line-ups conducted later, they both identified Bondsteel as their attacker. Bondsteel’s then-wife tipped police to her husband’s suspicious behavior, leading to Bondsteel’s arrest. The trial court joined the Motorcycle and the Signal Mountain Trail Cases for trial; , Bondsteel did not renew his pretrial objections to the joinder of the two cases. A jury ultimately convicted Bondsteel on eighteen of the twenty-three counts, including most but not all of the counts charged in the Signal Mountain Trail Case and many but not all of the counts charged in the Motorcycle Case. In addition, one conviction in the Signal Mountain Trail Case was for a lesser-included offense. Bondsteel appealed, arguing, as pertinent here, the trial court had committed reversible error when it joined the two cases. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly exercised its discretion in joining the cases at issue because the record supported the court’s findings that the joinder of the two cases satisfied the requirements of Crim. P. 8(a)(2) and Crim. P. 13 and the joinder did not prejudice Bondsteel. View "Bondsteel v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Defendant Francis Buell was caught shoplifting twice within a one-and-a-half month span: once at a department store, once at a supermarket. The prosecution initially charged Buell in separate cases arising from these incidents but subsequently moved to consolidate the cases under Crim. P. 13. The trial court granted that motion. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider Buell’s contention that the trial court abused its discretion in consolidating the two cases because, in his view, proper consolidation required the evidence of each incident to be admissible in a separate trial of the other. The Supreme Court had “no difficulty” in concluding the cases were of the same or similar character because the facts of these cases closely mirrored one another. Moreover, Buell did not show the consolidation was prejudicial because (1) the evidence would, in fact, have been cross-admissible in separate trials and (2) the facts of the incidents at issue were not disputed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s consolidation. View "Buell v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jeremy Sharrow pled guilty to one count of felony sexual assault (victim under fifteen), and one count misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact. Pursuant to the parties’ plea agreement, the trial court dismissed the remaining charges, placed Sharrow on a four-year deferred judgment and sentence on the sexual assault count, and imposed a series of concurrent sentences: four years of sex offender intensive supervision probation (SOISP) and sixty days in jail on the sexual assault count; and five years of intensive supervision probation (ISP) on the sexual contact count. Between 2010 and 2013, the probation department filed three separate complaints seeking to revoke Sharrow’s deferred judgment and probation. During one such probation revocation hearing, Sharrow presented evidence of both his indigency and his efforts to find a job in order to generate sufficient income to allow him to comply with probation. The trial court found Sharrow did not make sufficient bona fide efforts to obtain employment, and that he had violated the nonpayment conditions of his probation by moving from his established residence without his probation officer’s authorization, and he was terminated from a sex-offender-treatment program he was required to complete. Sharrow claimed his due process rights were violated because his noncompliance with the probation conditions were not unreasonable or willful because they were caused by his indigency. The court of appeals concluded Sharrow’s due process claim fell short. Before the Colorado Supreme Court, Sharrow argued his imprisonment following the revocation of his probation not only violated his due process rights, but also his right to equal protection. The Supreme Court concluded Sharrow’s constitutional rights were not violated, but on different grounds than those of the court of appeals. The Supreme Court adopted the rule announced in Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660(1983) for all probation revocation proceedings in which the defendant asserts he lacked the financial means to comply with a nonpayment condition of probation. The Colorado Court held that when a probationer defends against an alleged violation of a nonpayment condition of probation based on his lack of financial means, the trial court cannot revoke probation and impose imprisonment without first determining whether he failed to comply with probation willfully or failed to make sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire resources to comply with probation. If the trial court finds that the defendant willfully refused to comply with probation or failed to make sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire resources to do so, it may revoke probation and impose imprisonment. On the other hand, if the trial court finds that the defendant could not comply with probation despite sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire resources to do so, it must consider alternatives to imprisonment. Only if alternate measures are not adequate to fulfill the State’s sentencing interests, including in punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation, and community safety, may the court imprison an indigent defendant who, notwithstanding sufficient bona fide efforts to comply with probation, nevertheless failed to do so. View "Sharrow v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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David Calvert was disbarred for various ethical violations, including entering into an oral agreement with a client without complying with the requisite safeguards of Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 1.8(a). After being disbarred, Calvert sued his former client, Diane Mayberry, for breach of that same oral agreement, claiming that there was a contract between them. The trial court granted Mayberry’s motion for summary judgment, and the court of appeals affirmed. On appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court, Calvert challenged: (1) whether an attorney who was found to have violated Rule 1.8(a) in a disciplinary proceeding was estopped from relitigating the same factual issues in a civil proceeding; (2) whether a contract between an attorney and a client entered into in violation of Rule 1.8(a) was enforceable; and (3) whether the trial court abused its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees against Calvert after finding his lawsuit groundless and frivolous. The Colorado Supreme Court declined the issue preclusion issue raised because Calvert conceded he could not relitigate whether he entered into an agreement with a client without meeting Rule 1.8(a)’s requirements. The Court held that when an attorney enters into a contract without complying with Rule 1.8(a), the contract was presumptively void as against public policy; however, a lawyer may rebut that presumption by showing that, under the circumstances, the contract does not contravene the public policy underlying Rule 1.8(a). Further, the Court held the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees at the trial level because the record supported the finding that the case was groundless, frivolous, and brought in bad faith. But as to attorney’s fees at the appellate level, because the questions of whether issue preclusion applied in this proceeding and whether a contract made in violation of Rule 1.8(a) is void as against public policy were legitimately appealable issues, thereby making a grant of appellate attorney’s fees inappropriate. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals as to the merits on other grounds, affirmed the award of attorney’s fees at the trial level, and reversed the court of appeals’ order remanding for a determination of appellate attorney’s fees. View "Calvert v. Mayberry" on Justia Law