These are all of the Legal System 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.

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.

HB19-1030 Unlawful Electronic Sexual Communication [Soper]

Short Description:

Creates the crime of unlawful electronic sexual communication, when a person in a position of trust electronically communicates sexually explicit content to a minor. Position of trust is defined elsewhere in statute as a parent or someone acting in place of a parent. Includes communication over computers or computer networks, telephone or data networks, text messages, and instant messages. Crime is a class 6 felony, 1 year to 18 months in prison and fine of $1,000 to $100,000.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For:

Sexual predators will attempt to groom their potential victims through exposing them to sexually explicit material after gaining a position of trust. No minors should be sent this material.

Arguments Against:

Position of trust is generally pretty liberally applied as someone responsible for the child’s health, welfare, education, or supervision. This makes it a class 6 felony for an 18 year-old to send sexually explicit messages to a 17 year-old if the 18 year-old is a position of trust, like an older brother with a slightly younger brother where nothing nefarious is intended and the communication is not out of the ordinary in their relationship.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1030

SB19-014 Organized Retail Theft Prevention (Coram) [Carver]

Short Description:

Creates a new classification for theft from a retail location, called retail theft with special circumstances, a class 5 felony. This is when someone either at the time of theft has something that is designed to overcome security systems (like lined bags or tag removers) or utilizes an organized effort of multiple people with the intent of reselling items. Also requires secondhand gift card dealers to keep electronic records.

Long Description:

Creates a new classification for theft from a retail location, called retail theft with special circumstances, a class 5 felony. This is when someone either at the time of theft has something that is designed to overcome security systems (like lined bags or tag removers) or utilizes an organized effort of multiple people with the intent of reselling items. Also requires secondhand gift card dealers to keep electronic records. Class 5 felonies impose a sentence of 1-3 years in prison and a fine from $1,000 to $100,000. Stealing property directly off a person without force or intimidation is a class 5 felony. The value of items stolen designates the level of other thefts, misdemeanors for up to $1,000 and class 4 felony for between $1k and $20,000; class 3 felony for over $20,000.

Arguments For:

We aren’t talking about petty shoplifting here but organized intent to steal from retail locations, frequently with the idea of reselling these items later. Without this new criminal definition, these crimes would be left to simply the value of the articles stolen and that may rarely rise to a felony level (over $1,000) and may frequently be what is commonly called petty theft (under $500). We need a way to distinguish a professional criminal intent and operation, especially with how popular (and easy to steal and resell) gift cards have become, and that is what this law does.

Arguments Against:

This runs contrary to our fairly consensus view that we currently over punish for crimes and that our prisons are grossly overpopulated. A group of 19 year-olds who organize together to steal $20 worth of gift cards to resell later should not be treated like felons but that is exactly what this law would require. We currently rate the crime at the value of the item(s) stolen, not the intent or sophistication of the crime. It’s a good system and we should not change it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-014

SB19-036 State Court Administrator Reminder Program (Lee, Cooke) [Benavidez, Carver]

Short Description:

Requires state court administrator to create and run a reminder program to remind criminal defendants to appear at their scheduled hearings.

Long Description:

Requires state court administrator to create and run a reminder program to remind criminal defendants to appear at their scheduled hearings. Court administrator is to issue a request for proposal to choose a third-party vendor to develop and operate the program, but it may decide to develop the program itself without a third-party vendor. Administrator must prioritize the use of text messaging, but may use other methods such as e-mail and telephone, with at least two texts sent. Administrator must report back on the effectiveness of the program.

Arguments For:

The goal here is to significantly reduce the number of defendants who end up in jail solely because of a failure to appear in court. While we’d like to live in a world where people don’t forget to come to court, that just isn’t the case. Keeping people out of our jail system for stupid reasons is a good goal, and program, to have.

Arguments Against:

The state should not be spending money to protect people from their own negligence. If someone cannot be counted upon to appear in court when asked, that this their problem and failure, not the taxpayers.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-036

SB19-043 Increasing Number of District Court Judges (Lee) [Herod, Carver]

Short Description:

Increases the number of district court judges in the 1st, 8th, 10th, 13th, 17th, 18th, and 21st districts by one and the number of judges in the 4th and 19th by two, and the number in the 2nd by four.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For:

This just takes into account the workload requirements of the various districts in the state.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-043

SB19-047 Remove Unauthorized Persons from Vacant Land (Hisey) [Buentello]

Short Description:

Extends the procedures that are used instead of an eviction to remove unauthorized people from residential property to also remove unauthorized people from vacant land.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For:

The same procedures that work to allow property owners to evict unauthorized people from actual housing will work to allow them to evict unauthorized people from vacant land. No one has the right to squat on land that does not belong to them, even if it is not being actively used. We cannot ask property owners to bear the brunt of the problem of homelessness. The procedure gives the person the ability to defend themselves in a court hearing so it is fair.

Arguments Against:

This could present a problem for homeless individuals, who already have great difficulties in finding a place to sleep. We have to consider this problem in the real world, not an idealized one, and we can’t simply wish the homeless out of existence or constantly drag them into court. Without real housing solutions for them, closing down vacant lots could significantly narrow the options for some of these people.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-047

SB19-049 Statute of Limitation Failure Report Child Abuse (Fields) [Michaelson Jenet]

Short Description:

Changes the statute of limitations for failure to report child abuse by mandatory reporter from 18 months to five years.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For:

Eighteen months is not always enough time for prosecutors. This bill was sparked by a case in the Cherry Creek School District where by the time prosecutors were aware of the failure (a clear one, not a case where there was confusion about what was actually going on), 18 months had already gone past. The case squeaked through on some legal chicanery (the prosecutor argued that the statute reset every day, because the administrators have an obligation to report every day) that may not survive appeal and certainly will not be replicable everywhere. Mandatory reporting in schools is a mess, as a Denver Post investigation found last year, with at least three lawsuits settled with millions of dollars in fines paid out by school districts. We owe it to our children to have a wider standard here.

Arguments Against:

This does nothing to fix the problems with failing to report that the Post identified, which is that many of the mandatory reporters don’t know the law and are not given any training. A 2015 survey by the Department of Human Services found that 70% of mandatory reporters didn’t know they were mandatory reporters. And even from those that did, 30% didn’t know what the proper steps to report were. There also can be delays while administrators determine the actual facts of a case. The case that this is all based upon, in the Cherry Creek district, has moved forward under the current law.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-049

SB19-071 Child Hearsay Exception (Fields) [Roberts]

Short Description:

Expands the exception for under 13 child hearsay to admit an out-of-court statement made by a child from domestic violence and child abuse cases to any proceeding where the child is alleged to be a victim or any proceeding where the child describes all or part of an offense of unlawful sexual behavior.

Long Description:

Expands the exception for under 13 child hearsay to admit an out-of-court statement made by a child from domestic violence and child abuse cases to any proceeding where the child is alleged to be a victim or any proceeding where the child describes all or part of an offense of unlawful sexual behavior. These are all only admissible if the court determines that the circumstances of the statements provide sufficient reliability and the child either testifies or is unavailable as a witness and there is corroborative evidence.


Arguments For:

Courts surroundings are intimidating for anyone, let alone a child. In trying to elicit a complete statement from a child, a prosecutor may appear to put words and ideas into the child’s mouth. This exception allows the child to still tell their story in a way that does not violate the rights of the accused. It makes sense to expand it to instances where the child him or herself is a victim, the most traumatic experience possible, or where they can provide key evidence of unlawful sexual behavior.

Arguments Against:

Hearsay is a critical component of our legal system because it directly involves the right of the accused to confront their accuser. In a case of hearsay, the defense (or in some cases the prosecution) is not able to directly confront the statement and ask questions about it, in other words to test it under cross-examination. None of this is possible if the child does not testify at all, the jury is not able to see the child as a witness and make a determination of reliability. In our zeal to protect children we cannot lose sight of the rights of the accused.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-071