Justia Colorado Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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Detective Paul Patton coerced Matthew Cardman into making a confession, and the prosecution then used that confession as evidence against Cardman to convict him of multiple sex offenses. Defense counsel filed a pretrial motion to suppress Cardman’s statements but neglected to challenge the voluntariness of those statements. Because counsel neglected to do so, the trial court did not rule on it, and a division of the court of appeals declined to review its merits, concluding that Cardman waived it by failing to raise it in the trial court. The Colorado Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court and reversed: the trial court erred in admitting Cardman’s statements at trial and that the error rose to the level of plain error requiring reversal. Accordingly, the case was remanded to the court of appeals with instructions to return the case to the trial court for a new trial. View "Cardman v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Leo Phillips was charged with possession of a weapon by a previous offender and driving under restraint. Before trial, defense counsel moved to suppress three pieces of evidence: (1) Phillips’s statements inside a police car; (2) his subsequent statements at a police station; and (3) a handgun recovered during a search of his car. The trial court suppressed the police-car statements, but not the police-station statements or the gun. The jury found Phillips guilty as charged. On appeal, Phillips challenged the trial court’s admission of both his police-station statements and the gun. However, for each claim, he relied on an argument he had not made to the trial court. A division of the court of appeals denied him relief in an unpublished opinion, ruling that he had waived the right to advance the two claims of error. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the division that Phillips failed to preserve his appellate claims, but the Court found no waiver occurred. Instead, the Court concluded the trial court did not err in admitting the police-station statements and that the record did not establish that the admission of the gun was plain error. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the division’s judgment, on alternate grounds. View "Phillips v. Colorado" on Justia Law