These are all of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice bills proposed in the 2019 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, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about 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.
Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in . They are color-coded by party.
Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.
Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Major, Medium, Minor, and Technical. 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!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.
Click on the House bill title to jump to its section:
HB19-1225: No Monetary Bail for Certain Low-Level Offenses PASSED HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB19-1226: Bond Reform
HB19-1064: Victim Notification Criminal Proceedings
HB19-1104: Rights of Persons Office Respondent Parents' Counsel SIGNED INTO LAW
HB19-1149: Age of Delinquency Study PASSED HOUSE
HB19-1205 Reimburse Expenses Restorative Justice Council PASSED HOUSE
Click on the Senate bill title to jump to its section:
SB19-064: Retain Criminal Justice Programs Funding PASSED SENATE COMMITTEE
SB19-136: Expand Division Youth Services Pilot Program PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE
HB19-1064 Victim Notification Criminal Proceedings [Sullivan]
Removes the requirement that victims opt-in to effect their rights in criminal proceedings involving their alleged or convicted offender.
Long Description: n/a
Right now victims have to ask for dates/times of proceedings. This places an undue burden on the victim to be an extraordinarily informed about the criminal justice system.
This bill puts too much burden on our court system to be constantly notifying victims, who are not given the ability to opt-out. So a victim who does not want these notifications has no way to stop them.
HB19-1104 Rights of Persons Office Respondent Parents' Counsel (Lee) [Ransom]
SIGNED INTO LAW
Adds attorneys with the Respondent Parents’ Counsel (representation for poor families involved in child welfare cases) to the list of agencies and attorneys authorized to have read-only access to the name index and register of actions for the judiciary department.
Long Description: n/a
This is mostly a technical clarification, the current statute reads respondent parent counsel appointed by the court and paid by the judicial department. That is now the role of the Respondent Parents’ Counsel.
Arguments Against: n/a
HB19-1149 Age of Delinquency Study (Lee) [Gonzales-Gutierrez]
Requires the age of delinquency task force to study using juvenile justice systems for adults age 18-20. Must report back to the legislature in one year.
Requires the age of delinquency task force to study using juvenile justice systems for adults age 18-20. It must compile all criminal filing data in the state from the last three years for defendants aged 18-20, study the established brain research on this age group, study the potential impacts of using the juvenile system for this age group, and make recommendations for appropriate use of the juvenile system for this age group. Must report back to the legislature in one year.
It is very well established that the brain is continuing to develop at this age and that individuals in this age group are bigger risk takers, more susceptible to peer influence, and less future oriented than older adults. The entire point of the justice system is rehabilitation, to take someone who has done society wrong and come out with a functioning citizen who will not re-offend. The juvenile system is better designed for the concept of youthful transgressions and may be more appropriate in some cases. All this bill does it ask for a thorough look, to see if this would be a good idea in practice.
An adult is an adult. An 18 year-old is old enough to vote in elections and die for our county in our military. Of course brains are still developing but that is also true into the early 20s. At some point we have to call it: you are no longer a kid and you are responsible for your actions as an adult. That does not mean that we have to lock someone up and throw away the key, far from it. The adult criminal justice system should be able to rehabilitate adults, if it cannot then we need to address that because we have a far more serious situation on our hands than just 18-20 year-olds. It is true this is just a study, but it’s a loaded deck designed to get adults in this age bracket into juvenile care.
HB19-1205 Reimburse Expenses Restorative Justice Council [Arndt]
Goal: To allow members of the restorative justice council to be reimbursed for expenses.
Allows members of the restorative justice council to be reimbursed for their expenses.
Additional Information: n/a
Members of the community who serve on this council deserve to have their travel expenses reimbursed, in particular because this council is supposed to be geographically diverse, so you have some folks driving from distant parts of the state. This is a common practice in these types of councils.
This council has operated for years without reimbursement for its members and seems to be doing fine.
HB19-1225 No Monetary Bail for Certain Low-Level Offenses [Herod, Soper]
PASSED HOUSE COMMITTEE
Goal: To reduce usage of monetary bail for low-level charges.
Prohibits use of monetary bail for petty offenses, traffic offenses, or municipal offenses except for cases involving death or bodily injury, eluding a police officer, or circumventing an interlock device. Defendants which meet this criteria but who are unwilling to wait for a bond hearing may still be released with monetary bail.
Additional Information: n/a
We are an innocent before proven guilty society, we should act like it. The high cost of bail (and bail bonds) can be an impossible barrier for lower-income defendants. So they end up having to stay in jail for long periods (even YEARS in some cases) awaiting trial for minor offenses. This means they will lose their job, maybe their housing, and maybe even custody of their children. This system also pushes people to plead guilty to low level offenses (or even higher ones) so they can get 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. This is a rotten system that benefits no one at these lower levels other than the people who actively profit from it, either monetarily or through higher conviction rates. Failure to appear in court, for which the bill explicitly does not prohibit placing monetary bail conditions, is a more serious offense than the ones we are excluding.
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. Individual cases of overzealous bail setting by judges shouldn’t overturn an entire system. If we need to do more to make sure that bail is appropriate to an individual’s income, then that is something we can do without throwing it all out. But right now people have the right to file a petition to reassess their bail conditions if they cannot post within five days. So we do have checks and balances already built in.
This doesn’t go far enough. Low-level misdemeanors don’t deserve cash bail requirements either. This bill also may not be necessary if 1226 passes.
HB19-1226 Bond Reform (Lee) [Herod, Soper]
Goal: To drastically reduce the usage of monetary bail requirements for almost all cases by tying bail requirements to a pretrial screening process designed to use the minimum amount of monetary bail needed to ensure public safety and defendant appearance in court.
Requires state to develop standards and guidelines for a pre-trial bail screening process and written criteria for the immediate release of some defendants without monetary bail conditions. The presumption all courts must start with is that monetary bail is not required and that the least restrictive bond conditions possible should be used. The court may impose more restrictions or monetary bail if it finds the defendant is a substantial risk to public or individual safety, to not appearing in court, or to obstructing the criminal process. Bill outlines list of factors to consider for courts to come to this determination. Requires all counties and cities to have their pre-trial program set by July 1, 2020. Creates funding program to help develop and sustain these programs. Specifies how interested parties can ask for review and modification of bond. Removes possession of a weapon by a previous offender and sexual assault from list of crimes for which defendant is not bailable at all.
- Pretrial screening must be conducted within 24 hours after admission to detention facility.
- Criteria for immediate release without bail must be developed by each judicial district in conjunction with district attorney, public defender’s office, sheriff, pre-trail services program, victim advocate, and office of state court administrator.
- Statewide standards must consider: impact of detention on low-risk individuals and recidivism, national and state research on effectiveness of nonmonetary bail relating to community safety and court appearance rates, and relevant case law.
- In addition to the risk assessment tool for determining appropriate levels of bond requirements and monetary amounts, court shall consider:
- Individual financial circumstances of defendant
- Nature and severity of alleged offense
- Victim input
- All methods of release to avoid unnecessary incarceration
- State’s written criteria under this program
- Employment status of defendant
- Nature and extent of defendant’s family relationships
- Defendant’s past and present residences
- Defendant’s character and reputation
- People who agree to assist defendant in appearing in court
- Likely sentence if convicted, in particular if it will not include jail time
- Defendant’s prior criminal record
- Any prior failures to appear in court by defendant
- Any facts indicating possibility of violating law or witness intimidation or harassment
- Any facts indicting defendant has strong ties to community and is unlikely to flee
- Courts may set four different types of bond:
- Unsecured personal recognizance bond, which may include an amount specified by court
- Unsecured personal recognizance bond with additional nonmonetary conditions
- Secured monetary bond, which cannot be restricted to a particular method without a valid rationale from the court
- Bond with secured real estate conditions
- Government entities may enter into agreements with any other entity (for- or non-profit, another government entity) to provide pre-trial services.
- Smaller counties may request that the state provide their pre-trial services.
- Fund to help with these pre-trial services comes from the general fund and is not appropriated in bill.
- Defendants, prosecutors, or bonding and release commissioners may request review and modification of any bond conditions if new information is discovered that was not presented at original hearing or if circumstances have fundamentally changed since that hearing. Court must do a new hearing on an expedited basis.
We are an innocent before proven guilty society, we should act like it. The high cost of bail (and bail bonds) can be an impossible barrier for lower-income defendants. This means they will lose their job, maybe their housing, and maybe even custody of their children. This system also pushes people to plead guilty to low level offenses (or even higher ones) so they can get 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. We should only use monetary bond (and other severe restrictions) when it is actually necessary, not just as a knee-jerk reaction to any arrest.
Public safety and welfare have to come before all other concerns, including the state spending money to keep people in prison before trial. So we shouldn’t come into this looking to save money. This bill replaces our current idea of letting a judge do his or her job and judge what conditions are required for bail with an overly complex system that will create a patchwork of different standards around the state, all funded through expensive pre-trial processes that may clog up our already overtaxed judicial system.
The law still allows judges and prosecutors to detain people waiting trial. Judges and prosecutors are still risking public backlash if someone released before trial commits a crime. Thus, a law that criminal justice reformers hoped would make the system less punitive may instead make it more so. Additionally, the vague risk assessment tool is a cause for concern. Racial biases in the criminal justice system mean that black Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested or convicted for the same behaviors. Thus, a black defendant may look “riskier” than a white one — even if they lived comparable lives.
SB19-026 Postconviction Remedy Proceedings (Cooke)
KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE
Creates a discovery procedure for postconviction rememdy hearings. Limits the ability of defendants to pursue multiple postconviction remedy hearings by charging for costs of failed hearings, removing public counsel, limiting claims of ineffective counsel to original trial, and limiting collateral attacks on convictions for 1st degree felons.
Creates a discovery procedure for postconviction remedy hearings. Prevents a defendant from bringing a claim of ineffective counsel in a prior postconviction proceeding. Prohibits public defenders or office of alternative justice counsel from representing or advising a defendant based on second or subsequent postconviction remedies unless there is new evidence. Requires courts to charge defendants for the costs associated with a failed postconviction proceeding. Limits the time 1st degree felons can use collateral attacks on convictions to five years (was unlimited). Collateral attacks occur after a defendant has exhausted all of their district appeal rights.
Criminal defendants have sufficient avenues of appeal and postconviction relief but at some point we have to say enough is enough. The current system allows for a never ending cascade of appeals based on the failure of the previous appeal. This bill addresses that by removing the ineffective counsel on appeal loophole. It also prevents defendants from exploiting the free legal counsel they currently receive after one failed appeal, unless there is genuine new evidence. Too many state resources and funds are being used in endless attempts by convicted defendants to weasel their way out of punishment for their crimes.
The bedrock of our legal system is a belief in erring on the side of the defendant. That is why we allow appeals, it is more important to let a guilty person go free than to falsely imprison an innocent one. That is also why we tolerate abuses of the system and why this bill goes too far and may cause a chilling effect on appeals. Requiring that defendants pick up the tab on unsuccessful appeals may prevent them from even trying (and this applies to all appeals, not just 2nd and later ones). Removing free counsel (which may run afoul of the 6th amendment right to counsel) may choke off legitimate avenues of appeal that can occur even after a failed first attempt.
SB19-064 Retain Criminal Justice Programs Funding (Lee) [Weissman]
PASSED SENATE COMMITTEE
Instead of returning unspent funds for multiple criminal justice initiatives, this bill keeps the unspent money in their respective programs in future years. Extends the repeal of the justice reinvestment crime prevention initiative from 2020 to 2023.
Instead of returning unspent funds for community-based reentry grant program, the crime victims grant program, the justice reinvestment crime prevention grant program, and the justice reinvestment crime prevention small business program, this bill keeps the unspent money in their respective programs in future years. Extends the repeal of the justice reinvestment crime prevention initiative from 2020 to 2023.
Giving these ongoing programs money that they know they have to spend or lose sets up the conditions for wasteful spending just so they make sure they go through everything. If instead these programs know they are going to keep any unspent funds they will spend more wisely and the legislature can always adjust subsequent funding down.
We need every dollar that the state appropriates each year, just look at our transportation and education shortfalls. Shrugging our shoulders if programs keep unspent money is a way, writ large, to waste large amounts of appropriated money each year that some other program could have used and spent. The way to stop spend or lose mentalities is to thoroughly examine program spending and eliminate waste, not to let programs squirrel money away.
SB19-108 Juvenile Justice Reform (Lee, Gardner) [Michaelson Jenet, Soper]
Creates a committee on juvenile justice reform in the governor’s office. This committee is tasked with creating risk and screening tools to be used by various state agencies to better serve juveniles in the department of youth services system. The bill also requires the state court administrator to develop a statewide system to change juvenile behavior on parole and statewide standards for juvenile probation supervision and services and provide annual training.
Creates a committee on juvenile justice reform in the governor’s office. This committee is tasked with creating risk and screening tools to be used by various state agencies to better serve juveniles in the department of youth services system. These tools include a validated risk and needs assessment tool for courts, division of youth services, juvenile probation, and parole department; mental health screening tool; validated risk screening tool for district attorneys for diversion decisions; selecting a vendor to assist in implementation and training on the tools; and measuring the effectiveness of them.
The department of youth services is also tasked with creating a research-based detention screening tool and criteria for alternative services to detention.
The bill prohibits removing juveniles from the custody of a parent unless the detention screening is conducted and directs that unless the detention screening requires physical restriction, custody is given to kin or another person.
The bill also requires the state court administrator to develop a statewide system to change juvenile behavior on parole and statewide standards for juvenile probation supervision and services and provide annual training.
While we have numerous screening tools in place for individuals who have already been identified as potentially needing mental health treatment, there isn’t anything in place for everyone who goes through the juvenile justice system. And the evidence gathered from those in custody, both juvenile and adult, says that a significant number of prisoners have mental health issues. We need to screen before we make any sort of determination on sentencing and diversion potential so we can best do what the entire point of the juvenile justice system is: rehabilitation and creating functional members of society.
This bill is overkill, more screening of juveniles may be welcome but surely we don’t need to screen each and every one. Not to mention there is a danger here of overscreening—screen at entry, screen again by the mental health provider, screen again by the DA for risk specifically, it is possible to have too much data and it is possible to do harm to the kids by continually putting them through screenings.
SB19-136 Expand Division Youth Services Pilot Program (Lee) [Gonzales-Gutierrez]
PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE
Goal: To expand a pilot program in DYS that is testing a more therapeutic and rehabilitative culture
Short Description: Expands a pilot program begun in 2018 from one location and at least 20 youths to two locations and at least 35 youths and runs it through 2020.
Long Description: n/a
The existing pilot program is already working, according to reports from the division of youth services. The overall goal is have less violence in these facilities, between juveniles and also between juveniles and staff. Since this program requires quite a bit of culture change in order to work, we should start expanding it now, to just one additional location in a different part of the state, and the division would like more time to fully establish the new modalities in pilot locations.
Why after one year are we looking to make this pilot, which was acceptable to the entire legislature when it was created in 2017, larger? You do not alter a study (which is what a pilot program is) in mid-stream, because it introduces the possibility that you are changing the parameters because you don’t like the results you are getting. Let the pilot report at the end of this year and then we’ll see if more data is needed.
SB19-143 Parole Changes (Gonzales, Lee) [Herod]
Goal: To reduce the prison population by increasing the use of parole and decreasing the use of technical violations to return parolees to prison.
Changes the vacancy threshold from 2 to 3% where the state can look for people to parole from those close to parole or who have approved parole plans with medium or lower risk levels with some exceptions. Moves technical violations of parole that don’t have to do with committing crimes, fleeing, unlawful contact with victims, failing to comply with sex offender treatment, or tampering with electronic monitoring devices, away from reentry into prison and into a transition center. Requires majority of full parole board to overturn parole for a low or very low risk inmate.
- Changes the threshold whereby department of corrections can submit to the parole board a list of inmates who are near parole status and request early parole from 2% vacancy statewide over 30 days to 3%.
- Adds that the department can also submit to the parole board a list of eligible inmates with an approved parole plan who are assessed at medium or lower risk levels with exceptions. These include class I penal discipline within past year, termination or lack of progress or declining to participate in recommended program within past year, regressed from community corrections or had parole revoked within last 180 days, or has a pending felony charge. Inmates must be serving a sentence for a conviction of a level 3 or level 4 drug felony or class 3 or higher nonviolent felony to be eligible, with some exceptions for stalking and unlawful sexual behavior. The board may decide to rescind an inmate’s eligibility after file review or, if a victim requests it, a hearing.
- If a parolee violates their conditions of parole but the violation is not for committing a crime or possession of deadly weapon or failing to comply with requirements of sex offender treatment or absconding or willfill failure to appear at a summons or unlawful contact with a victim or tampering with or removing an electronic monitoring device, then if parole is revoked the parolee is placed in an incarceration facility created by the bill: a transition center.
- Creates a transition center with level 0 security (designated boundaries but inmates are allowed off-site for employment, treatment, or other approved reintegration purposes).
- Requires that a majority vote of the full parole board is needed to deny parole to a low or very low risk inmate who has an approved parole plan with some exceptions.
- If the parole board finds a parole plan inadequate, the parole division must create a new plan within 30 days that addresses the problems with the original plan.
Our prisons are overcrowded. Everyone knows it, and the legislature is fed up with the lack of progress the corrections system is making. We are approaching $1 billion in annual spending on prisons. Our vacancy rate is less than 1%. Our approach of locking everyone up just does not work, we need to focus on true rehabilitation and alternatives to prison and that includes people who have served enough time and are not a danger to the community. Get them out of jail and get them working toward rebuilding their lives. If someone on parole commits a minor violation that won’t affect safety, don’t throw them back in. We have urgent education and transportation needs in our budget and yet keep having to spend more and more money to lock up more and more Coloradans. This isn’t working and we need to keep pushing toward less jail and more true rehabilitation.
People go to jail because they commit crimes. All the wishing in the world doesn’t change that fact and we cannot decide that we just will punish people less because we don’t want to spend the money. This is a public safety issue, the reason we have a parole board is to make the decisions on things like parole, not to be a rubber stamp to open up more prison beds. No one wants to have more people in jail, but we cannot risk endangering public safety. Better to keep some folks in jail a little too long than to release people too early.
SB19-191 Prompt Pretrial Liberty and Fairness (Bridges, Marble)
Goal: To ensure that all bond proceedings are quick and defendants are not hit with extra fees.
Requires all bond proceedings to be held within 48 hours of arrest. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, requires defendants to be allowed to post bond within 2 hours of sheriff receiving bond information from court and to be released within 2 hours after bond conditions have been met. Prohibits charging more than a $10 bond processing free and additional transaction fees (with exception of standard credit card processing fee). If a defendant has been granted non-monetary bond and meets its terms, court must release them even if they cannot pay associated fees. Prohibits 3rd party bond deposits from being used to court costs, fees, fines, restitution, or surcharges owed by defendant.
Additional Information: n/a
We live in an innocent before proven guilty country. That means that when we arrest someone, we must do everything possible to treat them like an innocent person before trial. Part of this is a speedy bond process. No one should languish in jail waiting for just a hearing or waiting for a sheriff’s department to get its act together. No one should be forced to pay bond fees they cannot afford. And the entire process should not be a cash cow for jails to recoup money through fees.
While there is an extraordinary circumstance exception, it is defined as an emergency. So a facility that is simply always overwhelmed would not qualify. That could be an unfunded mandate, where jails simply cannot process cases this quickly due to lack of staff but are not given the resources they need to comply. Costs may also vary across facilities and limiting the ability of the facility to recoup its processing fees may provide further hindrance to the facility operating effectively.