In 2006, Colorado eliminated the sentence of life without the chance of parole for juvenile offenders. However, 45 prisoners in the state facing that sentence were left with little possibility of freedom. The Denver Post reports that a bill is before the House Judiciary Committee this month that seeks to retroactively apply the law to those prisoners.
House Bill 1287, co-sponsored by State Representatives Claire Levy (D-Boulder) and B.J. Nikkel (R-Loveland), would apply the 2006 law to the 45 prisoners retroactively, making the juveniles who were convicted and sentenced as adults qualified for parole after serving 40 years. Before 2006, teens that were sentenced faced lifetime prison sentences without the possibility of parole.
While the proposed legislation mainly expands coverage of the existing law, a spokesperson for Attorney General John Suthers says that the office of the attorney general is opposed to it. According to the spokesperson, the attorney general disagrees with changing the sentences because victims and their families have long believed that those who were convicted of a crime against them will never leave prison. The spokesperson also said there may be a legal conflict between the governor’s ability to pardon convicted criminals and a stipulation in the bill that allows the Department of Corrections to relocate the prisoners to a community corrections program with reduced security.
Levy has stated the opposition from the attorney general does not surprise her but urges them to look more closely at the situation. She says, “They need to step back and think whether this is the best for these kids. We need to do the right thing.”
As this debate shows, when a juvenile is tried as an adult, the stakes are high. Depending on the severity of the charges, a juvenile may face a lengthy prison sentence, which would forever alter the course of their lives. During this difficult time, it is vital to have experienced and skilled representation fighting for your child’s rights if they have been charged with a crime in Colorado. Timothy Bussey at The Bussey Law Firm P.C. is a Colorado juvenile criminal defense lawyer who has successfully defended many juveniles who have faced severe penalties. To learn more, call 719-475-2555.