Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court

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While patrolling Mesa County, Deputy Stuckenschneider observed a black Dodge pickup driving with a missing front license plate. Stuckenschneider phoned Deputy Briggs, alerting her to the situation. A few days prior, Sergeant Beagley had stopped the same car for being incorrectly registered and for displaying invalid license plates. Briggs knew all of this when she received the alert from Stuckenschneider. Briggs informed defendant Amanda Gadberry that she initiated the stop because of the missing front plate. Gadberry told Briggs that the car indeed had a front plate and, upon inspection, Briggs found the missing plate shoved into the grill of the Dodge, although the car was still improperly registered. While all of this was happening, Beagley, Handler Cheryl Yaws, and dog Talu, who is trained to alert to methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, arrived on the scene. During the time that it took Briggs to run Gadberry’s plates, Beagley asked Gadberry if there was any marijuana in the vehicle. She said no. Shortly thereafter, Talu sniffed around the car and alerted to the driver and passenger doors. With the benefit of that alert, the officers conducted a search of the car, finding a cellophane wrapper of methamphetamine lodged inside a wallet. Gadberry was then charged with (1) display of a fictitious license plate, (2) possession of drug paraphernalia, and (3) possession of a controlled substance. Gadberry moved to suppress the evidence on four grounds: (1) Briggs didn’t have reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop; (2) the stop was unreasonably prolonged; (3) Talu’s sniff was unlawful because Talu was trained to alert on both marijuana, a legal substance, and illegal substances, such as methamphetamine; and (4) Talu’s sniff was unreliable. The trial court denied claims one and two. The trial court did, however, grant Gadberry’s motion to suppress based on claim three. It followed the court of appeals’ decision in Colorado v. McKnight, 2017 COA 93, __ P.3d __, and found that a sniff is a search when a drug-detection dog can alert to both illegal and legal substances. Here, the trial court found no one presented any evidence suggesting that the vehicle had any illegal substances in it or that Gadberry was aware of all the belongings in the car, especially since multiple people had driven the car in the few days before the stop. Therefore, the trial court reasoned that, under McKnight, the officers on the scene needed reasonable suspicion that Gadberry had been involved in criminal activity to initiate Talu’s sniff. Because the officers here lacked reasonable suspicion to deploy Talu, the court granted the motion to suppress and didn’t reach claim four. The State asked for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review, and the Supreme Court determined the officers needed probable cause to deploy Talu. “They didn’t have it. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s suppression order.” View "Colorado v. Gadberry" on Justia Law

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Police officers discovered a pipe inside of defendant Kevin McKnight’s truck containing what later proved to be methamphetamine residue. McKnight would ultimately be charged and convicted for various drug offenses. On appeal, he challenged the constitutionality of the search that netted the pipe. A divided court of appeals reversed McKnight’s convictions, each member writing separately on the issue of what effect, if any, legalized marijuana in Colorado should have on the constitutionality of the search of McKnight’s truck. The drug-detection dog used to find the pipe, Kilo, was trained to alert on multiple drugs, including marijuana. “Even a hint of marijuana can trigger the same response from Kilo as any quantity of methamphetamine.” The Supreme Court surmised that no matter how reliable his nose, Kilo could render “a kind of false positive for marijuana. He has been trained to alert to marijuana based on the notion that marijuana is always contraband, when that is no longer true under state law. And historically, whether a drug-detection dog might alert on noncontraband drives whether the dog’s sniff constitutes a search implicating constitutional protections.” The Court determined the dog’s sniff arguably intruded on a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy in lawful activity; therefore any intrusion had to be justified by some particuarlized suspicion of criminal activity. The Supreme Court held that a sniff from a drug-detection dog trained to alert to marijuana constitutes a search under the Colorado Constitution because the sniff could detect lawful activity (namely the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults aged twenty-one years or older). Furthermore, the Court held in Colorado, law enforcement officers must have probable cause to believe that an item or area contains a drug in violation of state law before deploying a drug-detection dog that alerts to marijuana for an exploratory sniff. Because there was no such probable cause justifying Kilo’s search of McKnight’s truck, the trial court erred in denying McKnight’s motion to suppress. View "Colorado v. McKnight" on Justia Law

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Police officers entered Jeremiah Tomaske’s property without a warrant and chased him into his house; Tomaske responded by resisting and allegedly assaulting a police officer. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the evidence regarding Tomaske’s actions was properly suppressed. The trial court found that the police officers’ initial entry onto the Tomaske property was a Fourth Amendment violation. Furthermore, the court found Tomaske’s alleged assault “occurred only as a result of the illegal action of law enforcement entering the curtilage and then the residence in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” As a result, the court suppressed all evidence of the alleged assault. Because Tomaske’s decision to resist was an independent act, the Supreme Court concluded the evidence of Tomaske’s alleged criminal acts was sufficiently attenuated from the police misconduct. Therefore, the evidence of what transpired inside the house should not have been suppressed. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s suppression order. View "Colorado v. Tomaske" on Justia Law

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The State appealed the court of appeals’ judgment vacating defendant Richard Anderson’s conviction for attempted extreme indifference murder. Concluding that the universal malice element of extreme indifference murder requires for conviction that more than one person have been endangered by the defendant’s conduct and also concluding that no evidence was offered to prove the defendant’s shooting endangered anyone other than the victim, the court found the evidence insufficient to support the conviction. The Colorado Supreme Court determined the statutory definition of extreme indifference murder did not limit conviction of that offense to conduct endangering more than one person, and because the evidence in this case was sufficient to permit a jury determination of the defendant’s guilt of attempted extreme indifference murder, the judgment of the court of appeals vacating the defendant’s conviction was reversed, and the case remanded for consideration of any assignments of error concerning that conviction not yet addressed. View "Colorado v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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In an interlocutory appeal, the issue presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the trial court erred in suppressing a statement made by defendant Justin Cline after a search of his residence by his parole officer and a member of the Craig, Colorado Police Department. The search netted a zippered pouch containing drug paraphernalia that tested positive for methamphetamine. The trial court found that when Corporal Grant Laehr confronted Cline with the zippered pouch and questioned him, Cline was “effectively under arrest” and “not free to leave.” The trial court reiterated that once Cline was confronted with the zippered pouch, “a reasonable person in [his] position would not have believed he was free to leave.” The trial court ruled that any subsequent questions should have been preceded by an advisement pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Since no such advisement was provided, the trial court suppressed Cline’s statements. The Supreme Court reversed, finding the trial court applied the wrong legal standard. “[W]hen viewed in conjunction with the other circumstances present, it is insufficient to warrant a determination that Cline was in custody and that Corporal Laehr was required to read him his Miranda rights. Because the trial court applied the wrong legal standard and treated as dispositive the fact that Corporal Laehr confronted Cline with the zippered pouch, we reverse its suppression order and remand for further proceedings.” View "Colorado v. Cline" on Justia Law

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Tommy Gow was walking in a residential neighborhood at abut 2:15 in the morning when he was stopped by police. The deputy pulled up, got out of his patrol car, and asked “what he was up to.” The man, Gow, responded that he had just come from a friend’s house where he had purchased an iPad. He asked the deputy if the deputy wanted to see his identification; and after checking to make sure that Gow had no outstanding warrants, the deputy told Gow that he was free to leave. The deputy decided to drive down the street and leave the area. As he was about to pass, Gow began waving his hands at the deputy and signaled for the deputy to roll down his window. The deputy stopped and rolled down the passenger side window. Gow asked the deputy to give him a ride to his friend’s house, which was four blocks away. The deputy replied, “Sure,” but said that he had to pat Gow down before allowing him to get into the car, to ensure that Gow did not have any weapons or anything illegal on him. According to the deputy, Gow responded, “Okay. I don’t have weapons.” At that point, the deputy got out of his patrol car, patted down Gow, and asked to look inside the box again, to ensure that no weapons were hidden underneath the iPad in the box. Gow said, “Sure,” and as he pulled out the iPad, the box fell to the ground and two small plastic baggies fell out. The deputy directed Gow to hand him the baggies, and Gow complied. The deputy then asked what was in them, and Gow responded that it was speed. The deputy arrested Gow and transported him to jail. The Colorado Supreme Court was asked to decide whether Gow’s federal and state constitutional rights were violated when he was subjected to a pat down and search of a box that he was carrying before accepting a courtesy ride with a sheriff’s deputy. The Court concluded the pat down and search of the box were constitutionally permissible because on the facts as found by the trial court, Gow initiated the encounter with the deputy by asking for a courtesy ride and then voluntarily and expressly consented to the pat down and search of the box as preconditions of getting into the deputy’s car. View "Gow v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Brent Berdahl was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. On an early January morning, a sheriff's deputy was dispatched to an intersection to check on the well-being of two people whose truck broke down. The deputy saw a man walking alongside the highway about half of a mile from the reported location of the truck. The man, defendant Berdahl, was not dressed for the weather. The deputy offered Berdahl a ride back to the truck to allow Berdahl's significant other (J.P.) in the back of the patrol car to warm up. Prior to letting Berdahl into the back of the car, the deputy conducted a brief pat-down search for weapons. After learning that Berdahl and J.P. had been stranded for much of the evening and that no one was available to come get or offer any assistance to them, a state patrol officer who had arrived to assist the sheriff deputy, offered to transport the couple to the nearest gas station. They accepted the offer and collected their personal items from the truck. The sergeant then explained that before allowing them to get into his car, he “was just going to conduct a quick pat-down frisk for any weapons,” at which point Berdahl immediately went over to the trunk of the patrol car, put his hands on the trunk, and spread his legs to allow the sergeant to conduct the pat down. During the search, the patrol officer felt a hard cylindrical object on Berdahl's ankle, which was late revealed to be a methamphetamine pipe. When they arrived at the gas station, the sergeant gave J.P. some of his own money so that she could get help, and she went into the station. The sergeant then looked inside the blue bag, where he found a small plastic baggy containing a while crystalline substance, which he believed to be methamphetamine. He then arrested Berdahl. This case principally asked the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether Brent Berdahl’s federal and state constitutional rights were violated when the law enforcement officer required him to submit to a pat-down search before providing a consensual ride in the officer’s police car. The Supreme Court concluded that when Berdahl accepted the officer’s offer of a courtesy ride in the officer’s car and then submitted to a brief pat down for weapons before getting into the car, he, by his conduct, voluntarily consented to the officer’s limited pat-down search, and therefore, the search was constitutional. View "Colorado v. Berdahl" on Justia Law

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This case involved the joinder of two separately filed cases. In the first “Motorcycle Case,”: in three separate instances, a male motorcyclist wearing a leather jacket and a motorcycle helmet that largely concealed his face approached women who were driving or parked in their cars. In each incident, the assailant showed a gun, directed the victims to move or remove parts of their clothing and expose themselves to him, and demanded that the victims give him some of their belongings. At the time of these incidents, none of the victims identified defendant James Bondsteel as the assailant. In the second “Signal Mountain Trail Case,” a man on foot attacked two women on a hiking trail. The man was dressed in full camouflage and a long parka, and his face was covered by a balaclava. He accosted the women, threatening them with a knife and cutting the hand and arm of one of them. In the course of this attack, the assailant had one of the women on the ground with his knife to her throat, lifted her shirt, opened her shorts and looked down them. The women managed to escape after hitting the man in the head with a walking stick and rocks, and, in separate line-ups conducted later, they both identified Bondsteel as their attacker. Bondsteel’s then-wife tipped police to her husband’s suspicious behavior, leading to Bondsteel’s arrest. The trial court joined the Motorcycle and the Signal Mountain Trail Cases for trial; , Bondsteel did not renew his pretrial objections to the joinder of the two cases. A jury ultimately convicted Bondsteel on eighteen of the twenty-three counts, including most but not all of the counts charged in the Signal Mountain Trail Case and many but not all of the counts charged in the Motorcycle Case. In addition, one conviction in the Signal Mountain Trail Case was for a lesser-included offense. Bondsteel appealed, arguing, as pertinent here, the trial court had committed reversible error when it joined the two cases. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly exercised its discretion in joining the cases at issue because the record supported the court’s findings that the joinder of the two cases satisfied the requirements of Crim. P. 8(a)(2) and Crim. P. 13 and the joinder did not prejudice Bondsteel. View "Bondsteel v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Defendant Francis Buell was caught shoplifting twice within a one-and-a-half month span: once at a department store, once at a supermarket. The prosecution initially charged Buell in separate cases arising from these incidents but subsequently moved to consolidate the cases under Crim. P. 13. The trial court granted that motion. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider Buell’s contention that the trial court abused its discretion in consolidating the two cases because, in his view, proper consolidation required the evidence of each incident to be admissible in a separate trial of the other. The Supreme Court had “no difficulty” in concluding the cases were of the same or similar character because the facts of these cases closely mirrored one another. Moreover, Buell did not show the consolidation was prejudicial because (1) the evidence would, in fact, have been cross-admissible in separate trials and (2) the facts of the incidents at issue were not disputed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s consolidation. View "Buell v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jeremy Sharrow pled guilty to one count of felony sexual assault (victim under fifteen), and one count misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact. Pursuant to the parties’ plea agreement, the trial court dismissed the remaining charges, placed Sharrow on a four-year deferred judgment and sentence on the sexual assault count, and imposed a series of concurrent sentences: four years of sex offender intensive supervision probation (SOISP) and sixty days in jail on the sexual assault count; and five years of intensive supervision probation (ISP) on the sexual contact count. Between 2010 and 2013, the probation department filed three separate complaints seeking to revoke Sharrow’s deferred judgment and probation. During one such probation revocation hearing, Sharrow presented evidence of both his indigency and his efforts to find a job in order to generate sufficient income to allow him to comply with probation. The trial court found Sharrow did not make sufficient bona fide efforts to obtain employment, and that he had violated the nonpayment conditions of his probation by moving from his established residence without his probation officer’s authorization, and he was terminated from a sex-offender-treatment program he was required to complete. Sharrow claimed his due process rights were violated because his noncompliance with the probation conditions were not unreasonable or willful because they were caused by his indigency. The court of appeals concluded Sharrow’s due process claim fell short. Before the Colorado Supreme Court, Sharrow argued his imprisonment following the revocation of his probation not only violated his due process rights, but also his right to equal protection. The Supreme Court concluded Sharrow’s constitutional rights were not violated, but on different grounds than those of the court of appeals. The Supreme Court adopted the rule announced in Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660(1983) for all probation revocation proceedings in which the defendant asserts he lacked the financial means to comply with a nonpayment condition of probation. The Colorado Court held that when a probationer defends against an alleged violation of a nonpayment condition of probation based on his lack of financial means, the trial court cannot revoke probation and impose imprisonment without first determining whether he failed to comply with probation willfully or failed to make sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire resources to comply with probation. If the trial court finds that the defendant willfully refused to comply with probation or failed to make sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire resources to do so, it may revoke probation and impose imprisonment. On the other hand, if the trial court finds that the defendant could not comply with probation despite sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire resources to do so, it must consider alternatives to imprisonment. Only if alternate measures are not adequate to fulfill the State’s sentencing interests, including in punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation, and community safety, may the court imprison an indigent defendant who, notwithstanding sufficient bona fide efforts to comply with probation, nevertheless failed to do so. View "Sharrow v. Colorado" on Justia Law