Colorado v. Stellabotte

Respondent John Stellabotte owned a towing company that he used to illegally tow cars and then demand payment from the owners. At the time he did this, his thefts constituted a class 4 felony. But before he had been convicted and sentenced, the General Assembly changed the theft statute to make the crime a class 5 felony, with a correspondingly lower sentence. The amendment to the theft statute did not say whether it applied prospectively or retroactively. Without any party bringing this statutory change to the trial court’s attention, it sentenced Stellabotte, as relevant here, for two class 4 felony counts under the old theft statute. Stellabotte appealed, arguing he should have been sentenced for two class 5 felonies under the amended statute. The Colorado Supreme Court held that ameliorative, amendatory legislation applied retroactively to non-final convictions under section 18-1-410(1)(f), C.R.S. (2017), unless the amendment contained language indicating it applied only prospectively. Because the 2013 amendment to the theft statute in this case is silent on whether it applies prospectively, Stellabotte should have received the benefit of retroactive application in his sentencing. View "Colorado v. Stellabotte" on Justia Law