These are all of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice bills proposed in the 2018 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, pros, and cons are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Major, Medium and Minor. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!).

HB18-1010: Department of Human Services Report Data and Add Members to Working Group

Requires the Department of Human Services to annually calculate the recidivism (committing another crime) rate and education outcomes for juveniles in its custody who complete parole and are discharged. The bill defines recidivism as a crime committed within three years of discharge. Bill also adds two members to the youth restraint and seclusion working group.

SIGNED

Pros

You can’t know how you are doing unless you measure it. This bill will give us the data we need to see how the department is doing with rehabilitating criminal youth, as well as provide some more diversity to the youth restraint and working group in the form of child protection ombudsman and someone with direct experience in juvenile custody (either a person who was committed or the parent of one).

Cons

There may be unknown unintended consequence of encouraging the department to focus on these rates, ways the department will attempt to game the system that won’t benefit the kids.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1010

HB18-1020: Civil Forfeiture Reforms

Builds on the 2017 civil forfeiture reform bill by changing the reporting requirement from seizing agencies to reporting agencies, establishing a law enforcement assistance grant program to reimburse seizing agencies for lost revenue (paid for by changing the proceeds from forfeitures from 50% seizer/50% managed service organization providing behavioral health in the district to 50% seizer, 25% service organization, 25% new grant program).

SIGNED

Pros

While the 2017 bill was a critical reform to tamp down on civil asset seizure abuse, it did leave a hole in many law enforcement budgets that needs to be filled. This bill addresses the problem so that law enforcement agencies can still function properly without having to resort to abusing their seizure power. The grant program has a long list of requirements that will make sure the funds are needed and being put to good use.

Cons

The bill achieves its goal of funding law enforcement by taking money from behavioral health programs that handle detoxification and substance use disorder treatment. This is in the middle of an opioid crisis where we need more money towards these efforts, not less.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1020

HB18-1029: Lowering Mandatory Parole From 5 Years To 3 Years

This bill, from the criminal justice system study committee, lowers the length of a mandatory parole for a class 2 and 3 felony from 5 years to 3 years.

SIGNED

Pros

Parole can be a punitive place to be, of course better than jail but the long list of requirements to avoid violating parole are onerous, as is the resources required by the state to keep track. Three years in this system is more than enough time to determine if someone has truly reformed their ways and ready to become a productive member of society. The two extra years are superfluous and merely cost both the parolee and the state.

Cons

Class 2 and 3 felonies are serious crimes and thus require much more post-release monitoring. The current system works fine for protecting Colorado residents and while it is true that it costs the state more money, it is worth it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1029

HB18-1050: Competency to Proceed Juvenile Justice System

Establishes a juvenile specific definition of competency for the juvenile justice system as well as specific definitions for developmental disability, mental capacity, and mental disability.

SIGNED

Pros

Juveniles are different from adults and need different standards. This bill addresses that problem.

Cons

Competency is competency, as are all of the other definitions. This bill adds unneeded complications to the system.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1050

HB18-1081: State Court Administrator Reminder Call Center

Requires the state court administrator to create a reminder system for criminal defendants in county and district courts to appear at their hearings.

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

We have e-mail and text reminders for dentists, doctors, and many other appointments. It’s just one of those things: people forget. In this case, forgetting can mean ending up in a county jail and costing the taxpayers money.

Cons

These are adults. We don’t need to be spending state resources playing mommy and daddy to people committed of crimes. If they cannot show up when they are supposed to, that is on them.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1081

HB18-1089: No Monetary Conditions of Bond for Misdemeanors

Except for the most extreme misdemeanors (including domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault), the court may not require any monetary bail as condition of being discharged from custody for a misdemeanor, petty offense, or municipal code violation. Requires the person being discharged to sign a form indicating they understand all of their pre-trial obligations. Also changes what happens if someone cannot post bond within 5 days. Right now they have a right to file a petition to reassess their bond conditions. The bill changes that to a required hearing.

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

Requiring money for bond for small-time crimes is one of the most insidious ways the criminal justice system is titled against the poor. These folks do not have the financial ability to come up with the money, which keeps them in jail. This kills their ability to earn a living, so many will cop a plea just to get out of jail. A study in Philadelphia found that assigning bail makes defendants 12% more likely to get convicted. On any given day a full 1/5 of the US prison population, 450,000 people, are in jail awaiting trial. This is also a massive waste of taxpayer money.

Cons

Bail exists to give people a reason to show up in court. Remove it, and more people might decide to take their chances with running away. The required reassessment of bond requirements will also clog up the judicial system, which is already overtaxed.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1089

HB18-1109: Discretionary Parole of Special Needs Offenders

Alters definition of special needs offenders by lowering age-bound definition (has lower standards than non-age one) from 60 to 55 and adding a third definition that covers people who have extremely low chances of being restored to competency. Current law only allows the parole board to deny department-recommended special needs releases by majority vote, this bill adds a requirement for written finding that they are a threat to public safety and likely to reoffend. Also limits maximum end of parole to 36 months.

SIGNED

Pros

The current definitions of special needs did not adequately account for someone with a technically temporary condition that nonetheless is very unlikely to be reversed. It also puts more accountability on the parole board for explaining itself and limiting the need to expend resources on these cases beyond three years.

Cons

The exact words in the bill are “does not have a substantial probability of being restored competency” which still leaves open the possibility. If restored competency does occur, then we’ve let someone out we perhaps should not have.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1109

HB18-1156: Limit Penalties for Juvenile Truancy

Clarifies that a “delinquent act” does not include truancy or habitual truancy. Children may still be subject to sanctions by a court in a truancy proceeding but that must not include placement in a juvenile facility. Also removes the ability of judges to take a juvenile into temporary custody for a truancy action, including contempt of court or failure to appear in a truancy action.

SIGNED

Pros

The worst thing we can do for a child on the edge, who is having difficulty attending school, is push them into the juvenile justice system. That would lower their chances of turning it around and becoming a good student. If there is something else, beyond truancy, then the court can deal with it. But no one should be going into juvenile prison for truancy.

Cons

This removes tools from a judge’s kit in dealing with juveniles. We should trust our judges to do the right thing when it’s appropriate and it may be that a kid would benefit from being removed from their home situation and put into a more structured environment.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1156

HB18-1251: Community Corrections Transition Placements

Greatly formalizes the process of placing an offender in a community corrections program (run by counties, these put low-risk offenders into community-based corrections programs). Requires parole department to give list of offenders for community corrections transition to department of corrections staff, which is responsible for informing the board of the outcome (community corrections boards have the ultimate say in if they accept someone). Parole department must schedule a parole release hearing if an offender completes a community corrections program and a majority of the entire board is required to deny a parole release in this circumstance. Community corrections boards are required by the bill to use a structured, research-based decision making process that combines judgment, actuarial risk, and needs assessment tools. If a board denies a placement, they must inform department of corrections with suggested steps for a future referral. The bill requires another attempt between six and 12 months after the rejection if the offender does not engage in any bad behavior.

SIGNED

Pros

This entire process is way too informal right now. There is no standard for community boards, no forced subsequent referral efforts, no higher standards for parole rejection. The point of corrections is rehabilitation into society, and these programs are a key front in keeping low-risk offenders from becoming habitual offenders, as well as a method of keeping them out of state and county jails.

Cons

Too much structure can be a bad thing, these boards are accepting responsibility for offenders placed into their care and should have all the leeway they desire in making their decisions, including not having to repeatedly deny the same person over and over again.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1251

HB18-1409: Crime Survivors Grant Program and Presumptive Parole

Creates the crime survivors grant program, which is intended to provide funding to entities that provide support and other services to crime survivors as a five year pilot program. It is intended to be funded by granting a presumption of parole to any inmate who has reached their parole eligibility date and: is not serving a sentence for a violent crime, or any class 2 or class 3 felony, or any class 1 drug felony; has not been subject to recent discipline in jail; has participated in all programs recommended and available to them; has an approved parole plan; does not have felony warrants outstanding; and is recommended for release. The parole board can override this presumption with a majority of the full board if they find a substantial risk to reoffend.

SIGNED

Pros

Victimization from violent crimes is a recognized public health program and unfortunately, it’s rarely an isolated experience and people who have been victimized in the past have a high risk for future victimization. Currently most victims gets services through criminal justice agencies, which can limit support, particularly in the long-term. While the non-partisan legislative services department did not want to estimate the exact savings from having fewer inmates, we do know that it costs an average of $104.51 per day in a state prison and $60.47 per day in a private prison. With the board’s current release rate at about 50% for discretionary parole, the savings are likely to add up fast.

Cons

The bill does not setup the savings to fund this grant program, so there is no guarantee what the money will be used for.

 

We should trust the parole board to do its job: decide if someone should be let out of their jail sentence early, without slapping lots of restrictions on them. Fewer inmates is of course a good thing, but not at the expense of public safety.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1409

HB18-1418: Use of Criminal Convictions in Employment

Adds professions involving direct contact with people subject to abuse or mistreatment to the list where a person may be denied employment because of a criminal record. Changes the current criteria of good moral character to qualified for state agencies’ determinations if a criminal record should prevent the issuance of a license or permit for some credentials. Also prevents state agencies from taking adverse actions for licenses or permits if the individual was arrested but not charged, was pardoned, or had the record sealed. It also allows DORA to issue a conditional license to a person who has a criminal conviction, with the requirement that the conditional nature be kept confidential if the person has no subsequent conviction when applying for renewal or two years go by.

SIGNED

Pros

Many professions require certification of some sort from DORA and the current setup is heavily weighted against someone with a criminal record. One of the most important things we can do as a society to prevent criminals from reoffending is truly offering them a place back in society after their sentence is served. Being able to hold a job is the essential part of this, with no job crime starts to look more appealing again. The bill allows DORA to still deny a license, but this notion of someone’s character, which is a highly subjective criteria that can bring in all sorts of things unrelated to criminal history, doesn’t belong. And of course, if someone wasn’t convicted or was pardoned or the conviction is sealed, it should not have any bearing on employment.

Cons

Not all professions require this good moral character test, it’s only ones where we have already decided it is important to make sure we aren’t putting people with bad character (i.e. criminals) in potentially dangerous situations. Being qualified is a totally different judgement, the most hardened criminal could still be technically qualified for a credential. We have to be careful that we’re not so eager to believe in rehabilitation that we allow criminals into the wrong places in our society.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1418

SB18-016: Fund Transitioning from Criminal and Juvenile Justice System

Removes the repeal date from a 2017 bill that created a fund for unexpected money in community correction programs. The fund assisted people transitioning from the criminal or juvenile justice programs.

SIGNED

Pros

The transition out of the criminal or juvenile justice system is critical to prevent people from offending again and ending up back in prison. This fund simply takes money that is already there but not being used and addresses the transition period. The program was a good idea when it was created last year and should be continued.

Cons

Unexpected money should be returned, not diverted. If this fund is important it should be funded through different means.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-016

SB18-017: Determinate Sentence for Indeterminate Sex Offense

Courts are currently required to sentence certain sex offenders to an indeterminate life sentence. This bill allows the court to choose either the life sentence or a determinate (fixed year) sentence. Court must specify its reasons for doing so.

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

There is currently an eight year waiting list to treat all sex offenders (high and low risk) in the department of corrections. This has led to a mess in the parole system, with some denied parole despite completing all treatment required and some getting parole without completing treatment. Judges are also forced to choose between a life sentence and probation, which sometimes leads to too lenient a sentence (probation) because the judge does not want to sentence the individual to life. This is particularly true in cases where research has shown that the risk of re-offense is lower. This bill fixes that part of the problem by giving judges the flexibility to select the sentence that is best suited to the individual, with guidelines like any other crime.

Cons

Some sex offense crimes should just be a life sentence, giving the judge the ability to choose leads to too much leniency and danger to our community. Fixing the backlog in the department of corrections is unrelated.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-017

SB18-018: Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Criminal Sentencing Study

Directs Colorado commission on criminal and juvenile justice to contract for a study of the most effective criminal sentencing practices available. Commission must create an advisory committee to review the study and make recommendations for changes to Colorado law.

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

Criminal and juvenile justice should be centered on the best possible practice to fully punish the crime and rehabilitate the offender. Sentences that are too long or onerous risk creating a habitual offender with no chance at a normal life. Those that are too short risk releasing people into society who have not earned it yet. It’s always a good idea to look for best practices before jumping to make changes.

Cons

Multiple bureaucratic layers are not need to address this issue. Lawmakers should seek out any information they need on their own and then seek to make whatever changes to Colorado law they deem necessary.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-018

SB18-026: Make Sex Offender Registration More Effective

Bill requires sex offenders to register in Colorado for an out-of-state conviction only if the conviction would have required registration if the crime occurred in Colorado. It allows law enforcement to waive in-person registration requirements if the individual suffers from a physical or intellectual disability to the extent that it is a hardship to register in person. Finally, it requires courts to grant registration discontinuance petitions if sentence is complete, no subsequent offenses have been committed, and the required waiting period has expired, unless the prosecuting attorney or victim can present credible evidence the offender is likely to re-offend. Petitions can also gain discontinuance if they are incapacitated and can prove they are not a safety risk.

SIGNED

Pros

Sex offender registration is a necessary tool for the community to understand who is living in their area. But just as with any other crime, at some point as a society we have to recognize when an individual is no longer a risk, which helps the community better understand who is truly a threat and lets offenders reintegrate into society. This bill does that while still protecting the community. Prosecutors and victims can still put a halt to discontinuance petitions, and the prosecutor can do this alone, without any victim input required.

Cons

The bill may require legal gymnastics to determine in each case if the offender would have required registration if the crime occurred in Colorado. There may be errors.  It also puts the onus on victims to face their attackers yet again in court to once again protect their community. Some victims may not want to go through this, and that may hamper the ability of the prosecutor to convince a judge to keep the offender in the registration program.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-026

SB18-037: Sentences for Habitual Criminals

Changes definition of habitual criminal. Repeals entirely the from three felony convictions within ten years standard (which required a sentence of three times maximum of last felony committed) and changes punishment for four time felon convicts from four times maximum of last felony to two to three times the maximum of the last felony with a provision allowing judges to cite extenuating circumstances and use their own judgement. The judge must justify the circumstances in writing. Habitual criminals would also automatically be eligible for parole after 75% of their term has been served.

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

The goal of the criminal justice system is not just to punish, but to rehabilitate and make criminals into functioning members of society. Habitual criminal definitions are designed to throw that rehabilitation piece away and were part of the early ‘90s “tough on crime” era. Time has shown us the error of all of these automatic sentences and extraordinarily harsh sentences. This bill keeps the concept of habitual criminals but makes the requirements stronger, so that individuals who haven’t committed gross crimes still have a chance at a productive life (those who do commit gross crimes can already be sentenced to life in prison, we don’t need this statute for that). Furthermore, the bill gives judges more leeway in those rare cases where there truly are extenuating circumstances. Just consider the case of Marion Jetton, a cocaine addict who committed $9,000 worth of forgery and received an automatic 96 year prison sentence.

Cons

Committing three felonies in ten years is enough proof that an individual needs to be put behind bars for much longer than the law usually dictates to keep the community safe. They had their chance, multiple times, and blew it. We don’t need to make it easier for them to get out of prison and commit more crimes, even so-called smaller crimes (and this law only applies to felonies) affect the community negatively.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-037

SB18-072: Record Sealing Menacing and Third Degree Assault

Allows a person who was convicted of misdemeanor menacing or third degree assault to petition court to have the conviction sealed, unless the conviction involved domestic violence. Only applies if the request is at least ten years after final disposition of the case or the defendant’s release, whichever is later, and if the individual has not been charged or convicted of another crime in that time frame.

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

People make mistakes, particularly when they are young. Sometimes that involves getting into a fight with a deadly weapon and suffering the consequences. Third degree assault does not require intent in Colorado, it’s either causing injury knowingly or recklessly or injury via negligence with a deadly weapon. Misdemeanor menacing is putting someone in fear of injury without use of a deadly weapon. Someone who makes this kind of mistake and clearly has not reoffended in any way deserves to have the chance at living without the criminal record hanging over their head, with the exception for domestic violence.

Cons

If you committed a crime the public has the right to know about it, even if it was some time ago and you haven’t done anything like it since. There are many positions where criminal history is critically important in the hiring process and employers deserve to know this information.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-072

SB18-166: Change Maximum Criminal Penalty One Year to 364 Days

Changes maximum jail penalty for class 2 misdemeanor, misdemeanors without a fixed penalty, and municipal ordinance violations from one year to 364 days.

KILLED IN SENATE

Pros

This extra day carries great weight with US immigration laws and can be the difference between being removed from and staying in the country. This change ensures that non-citizens convicted of less serious charges will not be subject to deportation. To be clear, this is about people who are here legally, but not citizens of the United States.

Cons

Non-citizens who commit crimes certainly should be subject to deportation, whether it’s a minor crime or not. Being here is a privilege and these people forfeited it by breaking the law.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-166

SB18-203: Conflict-Free Representation in Municipal Courts

Requires all municipalities to provide independent indigent defense for each indigent defendant facing a possible jail sentence for violation of a municipal ordinance. A nonpartisan entity independent of the municipal court must oversee the program. Municipalities can either contract directly with local defense attorneys or use a commission to appoint and supervise. This commission must have its members chosen by the state public defender’s office.

SIGNED

Pros

The sad reality is that the sixth amendment right to an attorney is violated all the time in municipal courts across the country. The downsides to this are obvious, frequent guilty pleas without the advice of counsel. No less a figure than Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has said, “The Supreme Court’s Sixth Amendment decisions regarding misdemeanor defendants are violated thousands of times every day.” Having one counsel representing an entire panel of indigent defendants resulted in their client not being the defendant but the docket on its whole, which ends up being the court itself.

Cons

It is an overcostly burden to make these courts get a separate defendant for each individual, rather than supplying one to cover several, which gives each individual an attorney to advise them and help them through the process but keeps costs for the municipal courts lower.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-203

SB18-249: Redirection Criminal Justice Behavioral Health

Directs the chief judge of each judicial district in the state or their designees to work with stakeholders to develop alternative programs for individuals with low-level criminal behavior and behavioral health conditions to community resources and treatment rather than continued involvement in the criminal justice system. Programs must include standardized, evidence-based, screening tools to be used by jail personnel to identify people in custody who might qualify. They must then refer the individual to a specialist in the judicial district who has 48 hours to evaluate the individual and make a determination. If the specialist determines the person should be diverted, all criminal charges must be dropped and they are entered into the program, which has requirements that must be fulfilled to keep them there. People cannot be forced into the program, they must agree.

SIGNED

Pros

The goal here is reduce future crimes, that’s the entire point of the criminal justice system. Sometimes we do this by locking people away, but sometimes people need behavioral health care and solving that problem will solve the problem of future crime from the individual far better than simply throwing them in jail, where the environment is just not very conducive to this kind of treatment. This is no get out of jail free card, if the individual doesn’t do the treatment they lose the ability to not be charged with the original crime.

Cons

This is a way for criminals to avoid punishment entirely for their crimes. Just nod along when someone tells you it isn’t your fault that you committed them, agree to get help, nod along during your treatment (all while you are not in jail), then you’re all good. This likely would only work once, if you get caught for another crime you probably wouldn’t get put back into the program (and any new crime within six months of the redirection allows the state to pursue the original charge), but people should pay their debt to society, even if it is a small one, and get the treatment they need in prison.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-249