The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar is committed to promoting, supporting, and defending legislation and policy that ensure a fair, balanced, responsive criminal system in Colorado. 

Areas of focus:

2016 Legislative Session Summary & Updates

2015 Legislative Session Summary

Other Recent Victories


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Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions:

While America has recently begun the dialog about the costs and negative effects of mass incarceration, a less obvious but equally devastating development has accompanied the ever-growing need for criminal prosecution: the creation of a class of people who are forever punished for a criminal act. A vast network of legal penalties and debarments that arise, not from the penal laws, but from ancillary statutes and regulations, stigmatize over 65 million people in this country, including hundreds of thousands of Coloradans. The growing obsession with background checks and commercial exploitation of arrest and conviction records make it all but impossible for former offenders to become productive and successful community members.

Because of a conviction years in the past, many Coloradans are unable to find a job, barred from housing, and locked out of assistance programs. Otherwise able and competent people become homeless and without options.

Colorado laws should allow those who have paid their debt to society to have their legal and social status fully restored. In accordance with the recommendations of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, CCDB opposes the imposition of a collateral consequence unless it has a proven public safety benefit that substantially outweighs its burden on the convicted individual.

We oppose the revocation of any benefit or opportunity that is not directly related to the crime committed. Employers, landlords and others should also offer opportunities to individuals with criminal records to facilitate their complete rehabilitation.

Death Penalty:

Colorado’s death penalty is a failed public policy that cannot be repaired. The death penalty extracts a huge toll on the families of murder victims, is unfairly applied, and costs millions in taxpayer dollars.  CCDB recognizes that the death penalty is an unjust punishment in all circumstances.

The death penalty is a severe and degrading sentence that accomplishes nothing more than the pointless infliction of human suffering.  The death penalty does not comport with human dignity and in all cases constitutes the cruel and unusual punishment that the Colorado and United States Constitutions prohibit.

The death penalty is arbitrary, capricious and purely retributive in nature.  Numerous studies demonstrate that it does not deter crime.  It serves no penal purpose more effectively than the less severe punishment of life imprisonment.  To the extent that the deliberate extinguishment of human life by the government has any effect at all, it lowers our respect for life and brutalizes our values.

The death penalty is unjust, uncivilized, and inconsistent with the fallibility of our justice system. Since its reinstatement by the US Supreme Court in 1973, over a thousand people have been executed in the United States.  During the same time, more than 120 people sentenced to death have been exonerated and others have had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment because of serious doubts about their guilt. Some have been tragically executed despite serious questions concerning their innocence.

CCDB supports the abolition of the death penalty because no amount of tinkering can rescue it from its inherent flaws.

DNA Collection:

CCDB recognizes that in an imperfect justice system, DNA information can be an invaluable tool, supporting many claims of actual innocence.  The loss of liberty by one innocent person is one too many.

Post-conviction DNA testing has led to the exoneration and release of numerous persons from death rows across the country. The proper preservation of physical evidence containing DNA is essential in a fair system of justice and allows the innocent to take advantage of the ever evolving and improving scientific landscape.

However, CCDB recognizes that the science, its application and its interpretation, is subject to the human element and is therefore, not infallible. Proper standards along with strict oversight of the scientific process are necessary to ensure fairness and accountability.

Drug Laws

The “War on Drugs” is a failed public policy which has resulted in the widespread violation of constitutional and human rights, as well as unprecedented levels of incarceration.

Punitive laws and policies that treat substance use and addiction as a criminal justice issue with emphases on law enforcement and imprisonment are not effective.

CCDB supports evidence-based laws and policies that treat substance use, abuse, and addiction as a matter of public health with emphases on treatment and education and laws and policies that reflect the relative harms of all substances and treat them accordingly.

Immigration

CCDB recognizes the constitutional rights and fundamental dignity of all persons, regardless of immigration status.

The involvement of the state and local criminal justice system in matters federal immigration law undermines public safety by creating fear and distrust in immigrant communities.  These misguided policies raise serious constitutional concerns, promote disparate treatment of defendants, and foster bias and discrimination based on real or perceived immigration status.

CCDB supports principled state laws and policies that recognize the need for comprehensive, realistic and humane federal immigration reform and which safeguard the constitutional rights of all persons, promote fair and equal treatment, and further the integrity of the Colorado criminal justice system.

Juvenile Justice

Prosecuting children as adults increases recidivism and decreases community safety. CCDB opposes housing juveniles in adult jails or prisons, and believes that juveniles should not be transferred to adult court or subjected to direct file except in very limited circumstances.

Best practices support prosecuting all juveniles under the age of 18 in juvenile court, where there are educational services, mental health and other treatment programs and facilities staffed by people who are trained to assist and rehabilitate adolescents.  However, if children are to be prosecuted as adults, the decision to transfer a case into the criminal justice system must be made after a hearing before a judge who decides whether juvenile or adult court is appropriate under the circumstances of each individual case.

CCDB further recognizes that no child should be held in an adult jail while their case is pending in court.  If pre-trial detainment is warranted, the child should be held in a juvenile detention facility, unless a judge decides additional security is warranted after an individualized risk assessment and hearing.

Adolescence is a critical yet transitory stage in our lives, marked by immaturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility and risk, which warrants care and opportunities for a better future.  Colorado’s laws should reflect the current science when creating laws and policies regarding adolescents.

 
The CCDB recognizes that mandatory sentences for any crime invades the independence of the judiciary and is fundamentally unfair.  It distorts the criminal justice system by imposing a one-size-fits-all sentence on defendants in substantially different positions.
 
Mandatory sentencing, in many cases, forces defendants to enter into guilty pleas rather than contest the charges against them, because the potential outcome of a trial is so severe and leaves the trial judge no discretion.  Judges are empowered to impose sentences, and mandatory sentencing fundamentally violates the constitutional separation of powers by not allowing these judges to make appropriate sentencing decisions.
 
The result is too many people in a massive and failed system resulting in harmful outcomes such as overcrowded jails and prisons. Criminal sanctions and punishment have a role to play and is important for public safety, but the criminal code is far from the only tool in the box, and CCDB advocates for less punitive and more constructive sanctions designed to downsize the criminal justice system.​
 
 
Sex offense and child sex abuse cause great pain and suffering to victims and their families.  CCDB defends the constitutional rights of the accused, not the crime itself.  The sexual abuse of children and adults should be responsibly investigated and prosecuted when it is discovered.  However, it is important that criminal justice policy decisions regarding sex offenders be based on sound scientific research and evidence, recognizing the differing levels and severity of offenses, giving due consideration to the rights of both complainants and offenders.

Sex offender treatment and rehabilitation programs should be adequately funded and available both in prisons and in the community.  Such programs should not include mandatory polygraph examinations and should respect Fifth Amendment rights and statutory privileges such as the psychologist-patient privilege.

CCDB opposes lifetime sentencing for sex offenders because it fails to recognize the value of effective treatment, fails to recognize the need for individualized sentencing and serves as a cost drain to the criminal justice system without a significant increase in public safety. 

CCDB opposes sex offender registration and public notification laws. If used at all, sex offender registries should classify sex offenders on the basis of risk, with full due process of law.  Public/community notification provisions should be reserved for those who are legitimately “high risk” offenders.

CCDB opposes residence restrictions because such law and ordinances do not provide effective community protection and threaten offender stability and reintegration into society, thereby negatively impacting public safety.

CCDB recognizes that children are different and sex offender law relating to juvenile offenders should always emphasize exceptional care and treatment for the offender.

 

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