Articles Posted in Law & Information

The Colorado Legislature may soon consider legislation that would expand the collection of DNA samples to include anyone convicted of any crime in Colorado, according to a recent report from CBS Denver.

Currently, Colorado law requires anyone convicted of a felony in the state to give a DNA sample. The bill the Legislature is considering would expand that requirement to those convicted of misdemeanors as well – even if the crime is not a violent one or the individual convicted does not have to serve any jail or prison time. Currently, only one state, New York, collects DNA from all convicted individuals, but many states do collect from those convicted of felonies.

The convicted person would be expected to pay for the cost of the test, but the state would cover the costs of processing the results in a laboratory and including them in state and federal databases. Supporters of the bill note that the lab costs are significant, but say that the return for Colorado in terms of solving crimes would outweigh the costs.
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You may have heard it said that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” In Colorado, being mistaken about the criminal laws is no excuse for breaking them – except in one very specific situation, known as “mistake of law.”

A “mistake of law” defense relies on a confusion about whether a particular act is allowed or prohibited by law. “Mistake of law” can’t be used to defend a lack of knowledge about what the law is. However, this defense can be used if two laws, rules, or regulations conflict about whether an act is permitted or not. Specifically, a “mistake of law” defense may be used if:

  • the act is permitted by a valid Colorado statute or ordinance,
  • the act is permitted by a valid Colorado administrative regulation, order, or grant of permission from an official who has the power to give such permission under law, or
  • the act is permitted by a valid, written interpretation of a Colorado law, which comes from a person, agency, or court with the power and responsibility of interpreting such laws. Interpretations from courts must be made by courts whose decisions are legally binding in Colorado.

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The media publicity surrounding the upcoming trial of a woman accused of dragging a tow truck driver to his death has led the woman’s defense attorneys to consider moving her trial to another venue. The trial is scheduled in the El Paso County courts, but media publicity may have made it difficult for her to get a fair trial in that county. As experienced Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney Timothy Bussey told Fox 21 reporter Rachel Welte, however, getting a trial moved to a new venue is more difficult than merely showing that the media has covered it.

Instead, an argument to move a trial should be based on evidence that a cross-section of the community has been impacted by the media coverage so that they cannot fairly listen to the evidence in the case. A cross-section of the community is a representative sample showing that people from many different walks of life have all heard the negative press and formed an opinion about it that would prevent them from treating the parties in the case fairly.
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A recent bill introduced in the Colorado House Judiciary Committee would allow people accused of crimes the opportunity to make amends with victims instead of imprisonment, The Denver Post reports.

According to the article, the bill, House Bill 1032, emphasizes “restorative justice”. This favors restitution instead of an offender being sent to prison. It also encourages dialogue between victims and offenders.

Under Colorado law, restorative justice is already an option for juveniles during their advisement, plea entry, sentencing, or probation. However, if passed, the bill would make many of those stipulations mandatory. It would also give adults an option for restorative justice. Furthermore, the bill would instruct the Colorado Department of Corrections to employ a policy to create victim-offender dialogues.
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The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to reveal records relating to the FBI’s use of race and ethnicity data in its criminal investigations, according to PR Newswire. The request covers FBI field offices in 29 states, including Colorado. The ACLU’s position is that this data could be used by the FBI or by local law enforcement officers for unconstitutional racial profiling.

The FBI has recently begun exercising its power to collect race and ethnicity data in order to help the agency better understand various localities in the U.S. The FBI has been collecting race and ethnicity data since 2009, but very little is known about the procedures the FBI uses to collect the data or what the agency does with it once they have it.
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On June 1, based on a U.S. Supreme Court Media report, the U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling in Berghuis v. Thompkins. The ruling states that criminal suspects who want to exercise the “right to remain silent” promised to them by Miranda v. Arizona, must speak up and clearly inform the police of their intention to stay silent. Merely staying silent through a long questioning session is not enough for the right to stick.

The case involved a defendant, Thompkins, who was arrested for allegedly shooting another person. Police informed him of his right to remain silent, and then questioned him for nearly three hours. During these three hours, Thompkins said nothing. Only at the end of the three hours, when the police asked Thompkins whether he prayed that God would forgive him “for shooting that boy,” did Thompkins whisper, “Yes.” This answer was used against him at trial.
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Even if a person doesn’t know the specific name of their rights, most Americans are familiar with their Miranda rights. Television shows frequently depict police reading a suspect these familiar rights, which begin “you have the right to remain silent….”

The Miranda rights are named after the U.S Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, in which the Supreme Court ruled that police who take a suspect into custody and plan to interrogate him or her must inform that suspect of certain specific rights. The Miranda rights are:
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The number of most serious crimes dropped off significantly in Colorado Springs in 2009, says a report in The Gazette. However, the number of reported sexual assaults increased by 2 percent. However, this was a smaller increase than in previous years. In 2007, sexual assaults rose 11 percent and Colorado sexual assaults rose 17 percent in 2008. This smaller increase may be because sex crimes are now handled by separate units within the police department.

Overall crime in Colorado Springs declined nearly 8 percent from the previous year. The largest drop was a 37 percent decline in murders, with 24 murders in 2008 and 15 murders in 2009. There were also decreases in other types of Colorado Springs crimes: thefts, burglaries, aggravated assaults, and motor vehicle thefts. Identity thefts, scams and forgeries also dropped, possibly in part because many law enforcement agencies increased their warnings to citizens to be careful in guarding personal information and to be wary of scams.
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On March 22, 2010, a Colorado State Patrol Trooper was arrested on the suspicion of driving under the influence while on duty. According to an article by the Associated Press, the trooper left his home station in Colorado Springs early Monday morning and was en route to the State Patrol training academy located in west Denver. The 48-year-old trooper was pulled over after several people had reported that his vehicle was driving unsafely. He was also captured on film by a local television helicopter.

Authorities claim that the trooper was carrying a gun at the time, so he was charged with the prohibited use of weapons in accordance with Colorado State law in addition to a DUI charge. Persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol are strictly forbidden to carry firearms. According to authorities, the trooper is currently on unpaid leave pending an internal investigation.

The chief of police indicated that being a state trooper is a very difficult job that often comes with a lot of stress. The accused trooper has been with the State Patrol for 21 years.
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According to an article by the Denver Post, a man from Colorado Springs was accused of attempting to destroy Transportation Security Administration (TSA) computers that allow airport security to locate possible terrorists prior to boarding an aircraft.

The man allegedly loaded a virus into the system’s database at the TSA’s Colorado Springs Operations Center, which is linked to the Terrorist Screening Database and the U.S. Marshal’s service Warrant Information Network. The virus was designed to infiltrate the system on a specific date with the intention of corrupting information and destroying the database completely. Fortunately, TSA technicians tracked the virus and were able to contain it before any damage was done.
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