These are all of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice bills proposed in the 2020 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 or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.
Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, 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:
HB20-1274 Increase Sentence Served Before Parole Eligibility KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1079 Juveniles On Colorado Sex Offender Registry PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
Click on the Senate bill title to jump to its section:
SB20-161 Pretrial Release PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE AMENDED
SB20-172 Bail Hearing Within 48 Hours Of Arrest PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE AMENDED
SB20-076 Parole Eligibility For Youthful Offenders PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB20-1079 Juveniles On Colorado Sex Offender Registry (Rodriguez (D)) [Benavidez (D), Singer (D)]
From the Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Health Disorders in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems
PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE
Fiscal Impact: $400,000 in 1st year then negligible
Goal: Make it easier for juvenile sex offenses to not require long-term registration on the sex offender registry and make the juvenile registry private.
Makes it easier for juvenile sex offenses to not require long-term registration on the sex offender registry by recognizing other state decisions to not require registration, not allowing a juvenile offense to mandate lifetime registration, expanding judicial discretion at sentencing if a professional evaluator recommends exemption for a 1st offense (victim input is taken), and allow judges to reconsider rulings requiring registration if new information is discovered. Removes the juvenile sex registry from the public domain and allows for release of juvenile information only under certain circumstances. Clarify that law enforcement may not release or post information regarding juveniles on the registry and create an unclassified misdemeanor for false statements made to access the registry.
Requires courts to issue a ruling or set a hearing no later than 14 days before the end of each juvenile’s sentence concerning their on-going duty to register. Requires state to collect data on number of times information is requested and released concerning juveniles on the registry. Juveniles who judges determine do not have to register under this new system can be forced to register by the court if new information comes to light. State may only release juvenile registry information to law enforcement, the probation and parole division, child welfare, or the victim.
This moves the state’s juvenile registry more in the direction of evidence-based practices around juvenile sex offenses while keeping safeguards in practice. Youth who are required to register compared to with those who are not for the same crime are more likely to commit future, non-sex related crimes and critically, research has shown that juvenile sex crimes has a very limited correlation to committing adult sex crimes. Putting them on this public registry in essence pushes people toward criminal behavior by removing some of their ability to navigate society (such as losing ability to qualify for federal housing). Colorado is also currently one of only a handful of states that publish the juvenile sex registry. We recognize that juveniles are still developing by treating juvenile crime differently than adult crime. Sexually based crimes are no different. We need a system that allows for shades of gray, where we can still use the registry when it is necessary but not force it into situations where it actually may do more harm than good. And we need to make sure that for crimes that do merit inclusion on the registry, we are not flushing someone’s life away by destroying the very social supports they need for proper rehabilitation.
The concept behind the sex offender registry is public safety. While it may make sense to allow for more judicial leeway, making the registry pretty much entirely private negates the purpose of having such a registry: to give families the ability to protect themselves against potential predators. We recognize that frequently the commission of sexually-based crime can be accompanied by mental illness that if untreated, may lead to additional sexually-based crimes. So if a juvenile is still on the registry after all of the new procedures this bill puts in place to potentially exempt them, the public has a right to know and act accordingly.
HB20-1274 Increase Sentence Served Before Parole Eligibility [Soper (R)]
KILLED BY BILL SPONSOR
Fiscal Impact: $99 million increased expenditures
Goal: Increase minimum timed served before one can be eligible for parole for all felonies except class 1.
Increases minimum timed served before one can be eligible for parole for all felonies except class 1 from 50% of time served to 75% of time served. Increases time for more serious felonies from 75% to 80% for first offenses and 75% to 85% for second or subsequent serious felony offenses. Requires victims to be notified of the sentence imposed and information about whether the individual may be eligible for parole prior to completion of sentence.
Serious felonies include second degree murder, first degree assault, first degree kidnapping, first degree arson, first degree burglary, or aggravated robbery.
It might be time to acknowledge that we have swung too far in the other direction in an attempt to make our justice system more rehabilitation and less punishment. The violent crime rate in the state has risen in each of the past five years. And when you couple the existing 50%/75% standard with new laws making it much easier to gain parole when someone gets eligible, we could be seeing a lot more folks released too early, where there are a high-risk to re-offend and threaten the safety of the public. If we are going to be so focused on making it easier to grant parole, we need to tighten up when someone can become eligible to ensure that they have truly paid their debt to society.
This 50%/75% standard has been the law in the state for 30 years and it has served us well. This bill is several steps backwards in our efforts to do more rehabilitation and less locking up of criminals in our society. We have realized that an overly punitive approach does nothing but create career criminals. So taking away the possibility, and it is just that, a possibility, of parole by increasing someone’s jail time by a guaranteed 25% doesn’t necessarily make us safer. It just costs more money and makes it less likely that if we do release the individual, they will be able to lead a crime-free life as it decreases the hope and drive of the incarcerated individual to truly work on their life so they can apply themselves outside of prison. As for the rise in the crime rate, there are a lot more likely factors than sentencing decisions. First, this is not a population adjusted statistic, it is purely counting. So as the state’s population has exploded, we’ve gotten more crimes simply by having more people. Second, the opioid crisis has hit everywhere in the country and that includes Colorado. More drug use, including illegal drug use, usually results in more crime. So rather than blame a 30 year-old law for a five-year trend, we should look at more relevant factors.
SB20-076 Parole Eligibility For Youthful Offenders (Lee (D)) [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D)]
PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE
Fiscal Impact: $800,000 extra expenses this year, then $400,000 saved a year
Goal: Make it easier for an adult offender who commits a felony while aged 18-24 to get earlier parole on long prison sentences either through a timing mechanism with good behavior (50% served of 30 year sentence) or through expanded eligibility of a program for minors charged as adults.
Makes any offender in jail for a felony committed while offender was age 18-24 eligible for parole after serving half of their sentence and at least 15 years. Presumption in favor of granting parole if the offender has completed any program required as part of their sentence unless the offender has had a penal code discipline in past 5 years or type 1 discipline in past 10. This does not apply to anyone serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Extends the specialized program for juveniles who are tried as adults for felonies and sentenced to long terms in jail to an adult who committed the felony while under the age of 25. This program allows those who complete to leave prison early. The bill changes the thresholds from 25 years to 23 years served for all felonies except first-degree murder and 30 years to 28 years for first-degree murder. This program does not apply to those who are in or have been in serious behavioral or mental health treatment while in custody.
Requires the state to offer restorative justice services (previously was optional) to offenders and victims. Both must agree. These include victim-offender conferences, family group conferences, circles, community conferences, and other similar victim-centered practices.
Additional Information: n/a
Research has indicated that our brain does not reach full development until our mid-twenties, particularly when it comes to rational decision-making. This also matches our anecdotal experience. So those who our society considers adults and punishes as adults deserve a chance at earlier freedom if they have demonstrated positive behavior. Reconsidering such offenders after lengthy jail time (15 years is no joke) creates hope for and helps development maturity and responsibility in youthful offenders. The parole board retains ultimate discretion, so if they believe public safety is truly at risk they can deny the parole. Lowering the thresholds in the specialized program (which would also apply to juveniles in the program) recognizes the reality that because of budget constraints these programs are basically always finished at 25 and 28 years respectively, so right now people then have to sit for two years and wait. Restorative justice provides a chance for offenders to develop empathy and understanding for their victim, and gives them a chance to apologize. For victims, it provides answers to questions all of them want to know, why the crime happened, what went wrong in the person who committed the offense to have it happen, and it gives them the ability to hear from the incarcerated individual apology and remorse. In all, the core purposes of prison are to keep society safe and to rehabilitate individuals so they can be positive contributors to society once they are released. Offenses committed by youthful adults are more likely to hit both of these objectives early, as the brain completes development, and this bill helps us better recognize these individuals.
An adult is an adult, period. Despite the science on the brain we let adults in this age range fight in the military, smoke, drink, vote, and do everything else adults are allowed to do. We should not turn around when one of them does serious wrong (a minimum 30 year prison sentence is the requirement for the 50% at least 15 years qualification) and treat them differently than someone who committed a serious crime at age 25. Felony sentences have their own parole guidelines and we should continue following them. This holds for the juvenile sentenced as an adult program as well. Treat kids like kids and adults like adults.
SB20-161 Pretrial Release (Lee (D), Gardner (R)) [Herod (D), Soper (R)]
PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE
Fiscal Impact: About $2.4 million in ongoing costs, no estimate of savings for fewer prisoners
Goal: 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 each judicial district in the 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. These must adhere to state developed guidelines and standards, which must be completed by end of year. State is then to review these screening tools every three years to check for any bias based on race, ethnicity, or gender. For defendants who require a court hearing, 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. Specifies how interested parties can ask for review and modification of bond due to new information or behavior of the defendant while on release.
All counties must develop a pre-trial services program. In addition to administering the screening tool to all arrested individuals, it must provide all of the other materials required to complete the assessment and that the court may need to make a bond decision (such as criminal history). It must also provide community-based supervision programs that are research-based in order to decrease unnecessary pre-trial detention. None of the costs of these things can be assessed to the defendant unless they are convicted and not at all to the indigent. Counties must annually report their pre-trial statistics to the state. Requires all counties to have their pre-trial program set by April 2021. Creates funding program to help develop and sustain these programs, with prioritization given to services leading to no detention.
- Requires a summons instead of an arrest warrant for all traffic offenses, petty offenses, and comparable municipal offenses for which monetary bond is prohibited, unless the location of the person is unknown. Requires summons for misdemeanor offenses and comparable municipal offenses unless arrest is mandatory by law, the crime includes violence or a DUI or a deadly weapon, the facts indicate a substantial flight risk or imminent threat of harm to others, or their location is unknown. For felonies it remains optional but is up to the district attorney. Class 4, 5, and 6 and drug 3 and 4 felonies there is a preference and presumption in favor of a summons unless arrest is mandatory by law, the crime includes violence or a DUI or a deadly weapon, the facts indicate a substantial flight risk or imminent threat of harm to others, or their location is unknown
- Pretrial screening must be conducted within 24 hours after admission to detention facility. Sheriff and other detention facility operators are encouraged to delay admission of an individual to extent possible until assessment is complete
- 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. Criteria must consider practices in other similar judicial districts to promote statewide consistency with deviation from core practices only to extent necessary to address specific issues in that judicial district
- 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. State must consult with: a pre-trial services agency or program, office of state court administrator, office of state public defender, state district attorney’s council, a local law enforcement department or office, a victim’s services agency or program, a non-governmental entity with expertise in pre-trial justice, and an individual or family member of an individual who has been incarcerated pre-trial
- Each judicial district must be evaluated each year on its bond setting process, including type of bond set, amount of any secured or unsecured monetary condition of bond, and any other conditions of release, for any evidence of bias based on race, ethnicity, or gender
- For evaluation of assessment tools for bias, data submitted to state must include:
- Race, ethnicity, and gender
- Pre-trial risk category (safety, flight, or interference with justice process)
- Number of points assigned to each underlying variable and total score
- Any recommendation made by a structured decision-making guide or matrix
- Whether this recommendation was followed by the court, if applicable
- Type of bond and conditions of release set by court, including monetary conditions, if applicable
- Whether defendant was released prior to trial or disposition of case
- If defendant failed to appear in court and if so, if they subsequently did appear and within what timeline
- Pre-trial supervision outcome, if applicable
- Results of any additional pre-trial risk assessments used to provide additional information to the court
- 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
- Results of any pre-trial assessment administered to defendant
- 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
- 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 (unless defendant is still in jail and then within 3 7 business days) and rule within 14 days, stating in writing reason for decision
- If the district attorney requests a change in bond status either for violations of conditions or changes in threat, the court must issue a warrant for the individual to appear. This does not revoke the bond. Court may continue bond as is, modify non-monetary conditions in least restrictive way possible, revoke the bond and set a new monetary condition and non-monetary conditions, or provide temporary sanctions. This must be agreed to by defendant and can be up to 72 hours in custody and continue the original bond when the time period is over. Court may also refer defendant to substance use treatment as condition of release, again requires defendant’s consent
- Appellate reviews of bond decisions must be issued within 14 days of the hearing
- Government entities may enter into agreements with any other entity (for- or non-profit, another government entity) to provide pre-trial services so long as they have no conflict of interest
- Pre-trial services report to state must include:
- Total number of assessments done by program
- Total number of closed cases where the person was released from custody and supervised; total closed cases where these people appeared for all scheduled court appearances; total closed cases where these people were not charged with a new crime that carries potential jail time while on release; total closed cases where these people’s bond was not revoked
- Total number of closed cases where the person was released from custody and supervised where they failed to show up in court and if any of these people returned to court within: 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, or 120 days
- Total number of closed cases where the person was released from custody and supervised and was charged with a new felony, a new violent crime, or a crime against a victim or witness
- Total number of cases where there is a disposition that closes the supervision or an action of the court such as a warrant, failure to appear, failure to comply, or removal of supervision
- Number of cases in each bond category
- Fund to help with these pre-trial services comes from the general fund and is not appropriated in bill. Can accept gifts, grants, and donations. For assessments, counties can get up to 2 full-time employees funded or amount state determines is required to fund pre-trial assessments in the county, whichever is less. For supervision services, counties can get up to 1 full-time employee funded or what is required to supervise high-risk defendants in the county, whichever is less
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. Our current system is just not doing a good job when it comes to this and we need something better and more systematic. 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 or based on whatever the prosecutor wants. And bond should never be leveraged into getting a guilty plea. The bill provides sufficient safeguards to prevent a patchwork of rules and systems throughout the state while still allowing for local differences. It also provides a mechanism for counties to get funding to implement this. It also provides for robust anti-bias checks to ensure the tools are being applied appropriately.
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 may 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. Counties are also not guaranteed funding through the bill, which does not appropriate any funding, to operate this system.
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. It’s all well and good to point out that the tools are in fact being used in a biased manner three years later, but it would be better to build more safeguards into the process now.
SB20-172 Bail Hearing Within 48 Hours Of Arrest (Lee (D), Marble (R)) [Herod (D), Soper (R)]
PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE
Fiscal Impact: About $1.1 at full implementation
Goal: Require all bond hearings to be held within 48 hours of an individual arriving at detention, with few exceptions, and creates both a grant program and a statewide bond officer to help make this work for all judicial districts.
Requires all bond hearings to be held within 48 hours of an individual arriving at a jail or holding facility. This requires an in-person hearing with a judge (or bond hearing officer as described below) and an individualized bond order. Use of audio-visual technology is permissible. If high speed internet is unavailable, then the hearing can be conducted by telephone. Delays due to emergencies that force court closure or if the defendant either refuses or is unable to attend court are also OK. This must start for in-county arrests (crime happened in county where the individual was arrested) by July 2021 and out-of-county arrests by July 2022. Creates a grant program to help with the audio-visual equipment. State court administrator to distribute grant money. Program repeals in August 2025.
Creates the position of bond hearing officer, who has the authority to conduct bond hearings for any individual in the state. They can use audio-visual devices on the weekends. Any state judicial district that has been deemed underfunded by the underfunded courthouse facility cash fund commission automatically can use the bond hearing officer. Any other district must get permission from the state court administrator.
Bond hearing officer must be a qualified attorney-at-law in good standing with the state bar. State court administrator to prioritize awarding grants to counties that lack the capacity to connect with the court for remote hearings. If there is any remaining money in the grant program after helping upgrade technology it may be used to offset other costs to comply with the 48 hour bail requirement.
Auto-Repeal: Grant program, August 2025
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. We passed a bill last year that was preparing for this step, it required all judicial districts to study what it would require to implement a 48 hour bail program. Now that the study is done, it is time to implement it. This bill allows for audio-visual help to cut down on transport times and an attorney to help with the weekends and holidays. It also provides grants for districts to help procure the technical equipment they need.
This 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. There is no money appropriated for the grant program. And the bond hearing officer position could be problematic. First, this means that some defendants will have a hearing with a judge and that others will not. The bond officer is apparently not compensated (at least it is not mentioned) and no qualifications are given other than being an attorney in good standing. What about their experience with different types of bond? Who appoints this person? Who is checking that they are doing a good job? Are there backups? There is no reporting requirement on the grant program at all either, so we cannot see how any money that does get appropriated is being spent.
SB20-179 District Attorney Defendant Data Collection (Foote (D)) [Herod (D), Tipper (D)]
Fiscal Impact: None at state level
Goal: Require annual reporting from district attorneys on their cases, including demographic, criminal charge, pretrial determination, and sentencing information for each case.
Requires each district attorney in the state to annually compile data on their cases. Demographic data required includes defendant:
- Age, race, ethnicity and gender
- Zip code
- Primary language
- National origin
- If defendant was declared indigent by court
Criminal charge data must include each charge filed, if drugs were involved, the drug and the amount, and alleged date and place of offense. Pretrial determination at arraignment must include: conditions and amount (if any) of bail or bond, whether any revocations occurred due to new offense or failure to appear, and the district attorney’s recommendation. Sentencing data must include: offense and classification for each conviction, district attorney’s recommended sentence, sentence imposed, diversionary programs offered and completed, and any plea bargains offered and accepted. None of this data may identity the defendant. The report must made public.
Additional Information: n/a
Justice is supposed to be blind, so it should not matter what your skin color or gender is, nor what part of the state you happen to be in. And yet we know that this is not so, from numerous studies done on disparate sentencing for the same crime depending on race. Part of getting a real handle on the issue is making sure we all know the score. The position of district attorney is an elected office, the voters deserve to know if their district attorney is applying the law differently based upon demographic factors or if they are an outlier from the rest of the state. Note that there is no statewide report here, each district attorney is simply reporting their own cases.
Because this is an elected position, voters may want a district attorney that is tougher or more lenient. That may in fact be something the district attorney ran on. So we should not be trying to find disparities between district attorneys or attempting some form of public shaming. Every case is different, even if the underlying crime is the same charge, and we should want a district attorney that treats them that way.