Justia Colorado Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Juvenile Law
In re Interest of A.S.M.
Following a preliminary hearing, a magistrate determined that probable cause existed to believe that A.S.M. had committed the delinquent acts alleged. A.S.M. timely sought review of the magistrate’s probable cause determination. But the juvenile court declined to review the matter on the merits, ruling that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the magistrate’s preliminary hearing finding did not constitute a final order. A.S.M. then invoked the Colorado Supreme Court's original jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court issued a rule to show cause. After review, the Supreme Court held that while only a district court magistrate’s final orders or judgments namely, those fully resolving an issue or claim were reviewable under C.R.M. 7(a)(3), the preliminary hearing statute in the Children’s Code, section 19-2.5-609(3), C.R.S. (2022), specifically permitted review of a magistrate’s preliminary hearing finding. "Therefore, we need not get in the middle of the parties’ tug-of-war over whether the magistrate’s preliminary hearing finding in this case constituted a final order. Instead, we hold that section 19-2.5-609(3) entitles prosecutors and juveniles alike to ask a juvenile court to review a magistrate’s preliminary hearing finding in a delinquency proceeding." View "In re Interest of A.S.M." on Justia Law
Colorado in Int. of T.B.
T.B. committed two sexual offenses as a minor: the first when he was eleven years old and the second when he was fifteen. Because he was twice adjudicated delinquent for unlawful sexual behavior, the Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act (“CSORA”), required T.B. to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his natural life. Now an adult, T.B. sought review of the juvenile court’s denial of his petition to deregister, arguing that CSORA’s mandatory lifetime sex offender registration requirement for offenders with multiple juvenile adjudications violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. To this, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed: "Mandatory lifetime sex offender registration brands juveniles as irredeemably depraved based on acts committed before reaching adulthood. But a wealth of social science and jurisprudence confirms what common sense suggests: Juveniles are different. Minors have a tremendous capacity to change and reform. As such, mandating lifetime sex offender registration for juveniles without providing a mechanism for individualized assessment or an opportunity to deregister upon a showing of rehabilitation is excessive and violates the Eighth Amendment." The matter was remanded for further proceedings on T.B.'s petition to deregister. View "Colorado in Int. of T.B." on Justia Law
Colorado in the Interest of B.D.
Several boys broke into two homes, one of which was owned by a man old enough to be considered an “at-risk” victim. When that man returned home, he happened upon one of the boys holding the "spoils of an ill-conceived, juvenile burglary." The others, including B.D., remained outside, oblivious to the elderly man’s arrival. All the boys quickly fled. By this opinion, the Colorado Supreme Court addressed the scope of complicitor liability for a fact that aggravates the punishment for theft; namely, an at-risk victim’s presence. Based on the plain language of the controlling statutes, the Supreme Court concluded that a complicitor need not be aware that an at-risk victim was present because it was a strict liability sentence enhancer and not an element of the offense. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case for the district court to reinstate the adjudication and sentence. View "Colorado in the Interest of B.D." on Justia Law
Colorado in Interest of J.D.
The State sought review of an appellate court's judgment reversing a district court order voiding a juvenile magistrate's ruling. The district court found that the juvenile magistrate lacked jurisdiction to grant J.D.’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea and, further, that J.D.’s sole remedy for a failure of his counsel to render effective assistance in advising him concerning his deferred adjudication was to file a petition with the court for reinstatement of his review rights nunc pro tunc. By contrast, the court of appeals found that the juvenile magistrate had jurisdiction to entertain J.D.’s Crim. P. 32(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea because it was a motion in a delinquency case the magistrate had been appointed to hear, and it was not a motion seeking review of any prior order of the magistrate. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in ruling that the magistrate lacked jurisdiction over the juvenile’s Crim. P. 32(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Although on different grounds, the judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed. View "Colorado in Interest of J.D." on Justia Law
Colorado in Interest of R.D.
The issue this case case, which stemmed from a late-night argument on Twitter among several high school students, presented to the Colorado Supreme Court centered on the applicable framework for distinguishing a true threat from constitutionally protected speech in the "cyber arena." R.D., a juvenile, was adjudicated delinquent for harassment by communication based on those tweets directed at another student that took place in the wake of a local school shooting. Put differently, the question was whether R.D.'s statements were "true threats." The Supreme Court held a true threat is a statement that, considered in context and under the totality of the circumstances, an intended or foreseeable recipient would reasonably perceive as a serious expression of intent to commit an act of unlawful violence. In determining whether a statement is a true threat, a reviewing court must examine the words used, but it must also consider the context in which the statement was made. Particularly where the alleged threat is communicated online, the contextual factors courts should consider include, but are not limited to: (1) the statement’s role in a broader exchange, if any, including surrounding events; (2) the medium or platform through which the statement was communicated, including any distinctive conventions or architectural features; (3) the manner in which the statement was conveyed (e.g., anonymously or not, privately or publicly); (4) the relationship between the speaker and recipient(s); and (5) the subjective reaction of the statement’s intended or foreseeable recipient(s). Because neither the juvenile court nor the court of appeals had the benefit of the framework announced by this case, the Supreme Court reversed judgment and remanded for reconsideration. View "Colorado in Interest of R.D." on Justia Law
Colorado In Interest of G.S.S.
After being charged, fourteen-year-old G.S.S. was detained for more than three months without bail, even though he had not entered a plea and had not been tried on the charges against him. At that point, G.S.S.’s counsel filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that G.S.S.’s “right to a speedy trial” had been violated under section 19-2-509(4)(b), C.R.S. (2019). The trial court agreed and dismissed the case against G.S.S. with prejudice, and the court of appeals affirmed in Colorado in Interest of G.S.S., 2019 COA 4M, __ P.3d __. The Colorado Supreme Court then granted certiorari to determine the proper remedy for a violation of the sixty-day limit in section 19-2-509(4)(b). The Supreme Court determined the remedy for a section 19-2-509(4)(b) violation was for the trial court to immediately hold a bail hearing and order the juvenile's release. Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals was reversed. View "Colorado In Interest of G.S.S." on Justia Law
Howard v. Colorado
Nevik Howard, when sixteen years old, was convicted of first-degree assault (a crime of violence) and first-degree criminal trespass after his case was transferred from juvenile court to district court. During the sentencing hearing, Howard argued that he was subject to a more severe penalty for a crime of violence conviction under the transfer statute than he would be if this were a direct-file case because direct-filed juveniles were exempted “from the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in [the crime of violence statute],” whereas transferred juveniles were not. To address that equal protection concern, the district court determined that the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the crime of violence statute would not apply in this transfer proceeding, just as they would not have applied in a direct-file proceeding. The court further determined, however, that this ruling did not make Howard eligible for probation. Instead, the court concluded that the statutory scheme only allowed either: (1) a youth offender services (“YOS”) sentence with a suspended Department of Corrections (“DOC”) sentence; or (2) a DOC sentence. The court ultimately sentenced Howard to six years in YOS with a suspended fifteen-year DOC sentence. Howard, appealed, arguing the district court erred in its reasoning. The court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court granted review, affirming the court of appeals, but on different grounds. The Supreme Court held that under the facts of this case, there was no equal protection violation because neither direct-filed juveniles nor transferred juveniles convicted of crimes of violence were eligible for probation, and the district court did not apply the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the crime of violence statute. Hence, Howard was treated the same as a direct-filed juvenile would have been with regard to probation and the applicable sentencing range. View "Howard v. Colorado" on Justia Law
In re Colorado v. B.B.A.M.
The State of Colorado filed a delinquency petition against B.B.A.M., charging him with one count of third degree burglary and three counts of criminal mischief. B.B.A.M.’s counsel filed a motion to determine competency. Because the court felt it lacked adequate information to make a preliminary finding regarding B.B.A.M.’s competency, it ordered the Colorado Department of Human Services (“DHS”) to conduct an outpatient competency evaluation. The competency evaluator filed a report in which she concluded B.B.A.M. was incompetent to proceed, determined there was a likelihood of restoring him to competency, and recommended the restoration services she deemed appropriate. Based on the evaluator’s report, the court made a preliminary finding of incompetency. Since neither party requested a competency hearing within ten days, the court made the preliminary finding of incompetency a final determination. Proceedings were suspended, and B.B.A.M. was ordered to receive outpatient services designed to restore him to competency. Following the provision of those services, the court ordered, over his objection, a second competency evaluation to determine whether he had been restored to competency. B.B.A.M. appealed, but the district court upheld the juvenile court’s order. The Colorado Supreme Court determined the relevant statutes did not permit a juvenile court to order a second competency evaluation to determine whether a juvenile has been restored to competency; the district court erred in affirming the juvenile court’s order. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order and remanded with instructions to return the case to the juvenile court for a restoration review or a restoration hearing. View "In re Colorado v. B.B.A.M." on Justia Law
Colorado in the Interest of T.B.
In this case, a juvenile, "T.B." texted a picture of his erect penis to two underage girls and then repeatedly asked the girls to text him naked pictures of themselves. After initially resisting, both girls eventually complied and texted nude selfies to the juvenile. T.B. kept these sexts on his cell phone, where they were discovered by law enforcement in 2013. The question this case presented was whether T.B. could be adjudicated delinquent for sexual exploitation of a child under section 18-6-403(3), C.R.S. (2018), for possessing these images. At a bench trial, T.B. argued that the prosecution failed to prove that he knowingly possessed erotic nudity for the purpose of the overt sexual gratification of a “person involved.” The court rejected this argument and adjudicated T.B. delinquent on both counts. A split court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court granted review to determine the proper standard of review for an unpreserved sufficiency of the evidence claim and to review whether the court of appeals misconstrued section 18-6-403(3)(b.5) in holding the evidence was sufficient to support T.B.’s adjudication for sexual exploitation of a child. The Court was satisfied that the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court's conclusion that the images constituted “erotic nudity” (and therefore “sexually exploitative material”) for purposes of the sexual exploitation of a child statute. View "Colorado in the Interest of T.B." on Justia Law
Colorado v. Brown
After being charged with first degree murder as an adult in district court, Brandon Brown exercised his statutory right to request a “reverse transfer” to juvenile court. In doing so, he asked the Colorado Supreme Court to address whether he could temporarily waive privilege as to certain information at the reverse-transfer hearing without suffering a continued waiver at trial. The Court held he could not: nothing in the reverse-transfer statute gave Brown the ability to make such a limited waiver. "And, neither common law scope-of-waiver limitations nor constitutional principles regarding impermissibly burdening rights changes that result. By disclosing otherwise privileged information in open court during a reverse-transfer hearing, Brown would waive privilege as to any such information at trial." View "Colorado v. Brown" on Justia Law