Supreme Court Debates Penalty Limits for Juvenile Offenders in Castle Rock, Elsewhere
The U.S. Supreme Court is debating whether juvenile offenders in Castle Rock and across the country should be spared the possibility of being locked up for life.
Our Castle Rock juvenile defense attorneys understand the debate stems from two cases – Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs. The question is whether it is cruel and unusual punishment for a juvenile, given his or her youth, to face life in prison.
Here’s what we know of the two cases that sparked the discussion:
The first case involved a 14-year-old who allegedly beat an Alabama man and then set his home ablaze. The second involved another 14-year-old who was involved in an attempted robbery in which one of his accomplices pulled the trigger on the clerk, killing him. Because of state law where the crime occurred, simply being involved in the felony that resulted in the death got him a murder charge – and subsequently, a conviction and a sentence of life in prison.
According to The Associated Press, some 2,300 individuals are locked up for life with no chance of winning parole for crimes that occurred before they were 18. Of those, about 80 are in prison for crimes that happened when the defendant was age 14 or younger.
It was previously decided that the death penalty was too harsh for juveniles.
Now, several justices seem concerned about what they construe as the lack of judicial discretion for the sentencing of youth convicted of homicide. In many states, if you try someone under the age of 18 as an adult, they are going to get an adult sentence. In many cases, that involves just one possibility: Life without parole.
One possibility is that the justices may not outright prohibit life without parole as a possibility for juveniles who commit homicide, but they may instead say it is not mandatory and is instead up to the discretion of the judge.
Or, it could issue the cut-off point at 14 years old, saying if you are that age or younger, life without parole is too much.
It is expected that the justices will offer a ruling on the cases by sometimes this summer.
Validity of Castle Rock Marijuana DUI Debated
The issue of marijuana DUI in Castle Rock has been raising a number of questions among those in the legal community, here and across the country.
Our Castle Rock marijuana DUI attorneys know that while it is illegal to drive while intoxicated on any substance, the issue of how that is measured has created a very gray area in terms of the law.
This is illustrated in one case that was highlighted in a recent article by The Associated Press. A suburban woman from Denver told the reporter that while she would never get behind the wheel immediately after smoking marijuana, if she were to be tested by a law enforcement officer, her THC levels would likely be off the charts.
That is because her doctor has legally prescribed her marijuana to help ease the tremors of her multiple sclerosis.
“I don’t drink and drive, and I don’t smoke and drive. But my body is completely saturated with THC,” she told the reporter.
State lawmakers are debating the establishment of a marijuana threshold that would determine whether a person is driving under the influence of marijuana. That threshold would be 5 nanograms.
The problem is that marijuana, unlike alcohol, stays in a person’s system for an extended period of time. So while a person may blow a 0.08 alcohol blood content, which would all but prove they had been drinking in the last few hours, a marijuana reading would show that a person had consumed marijuana, but would not be accurate in terms of the time frame. That time element is crucial in proving whether the person is driving intoxicated.
While recent research has linked marijuana use to the risk of a crash – something conservative lawmakers have pounced on – some have pointed out that this research falls short of proving anything scientifically. Use of marijuana was not determined to be the sole cause of many of those crashes, and there was no detailed data involving the dosage or whether other drugs were present as well.
If you are charged with marijuana DUI in Castle Rock, it’s important that your first phone call be to an attorney.
Castle Rock Murder Accessory Suspects Get Probation
Two women, both accused of two charges each of accessory to murder in Castle Rock, have been sentenced to probation.
In order for a person to be charged as an accessory to a crime in Colorado, they have to be found responsible of one of the following capacities: hindered, delayed or prevented the discovery, detection apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment of another person for the commission of a crime by offering assistance to the suspect. Also, prosecutors in these instances must prove that there was intent. That means that prosecutors must prove that not only was a crime committed, but that the person charged with accessory knew about it and took the actions they did in order to cover it up.
That can mean anything from tipping off someone of where authorities may show up to giving the person money or transportation or a disguise. It can also mean hiding or destroying evidence, as is reportedly alleged in this case.
The Castle Rock News Press reports that the two women accepted plea agreements in the case, following the homicide of a woman and her brother in an alleged murder-for-hire plot. The two women accused are the girlfriends of the alleged hit man and driver.
Prosecutors allege that the estranged husband of the female homicide victim hired two men to kill his wife.
It was alleged that the two women helped to clean blood from the getaway car. One of the women was pregnant with the alleged shooter’s sixth child at the time of the homicides.
In exchange for the probation they received, the two women have agreed to serve as witnesses for the state in the prosecution of the shooter and the driver, though those cases may result in plea bargains as well.
Often in these type of cases, where the evidence against an individual is strong, having an experienced attorney aggressively negotiate a plea deal on your behalf may be in your best interest.
Felony Charges in Castle Rock Result in 111-Year Prison Term
A man who reportedly shot a police officer was convicted on several Castle Rock felony charges, and ultimately sentenced to 111 years in prison.
Our Castle Rock criminal defense attorneys recognize that attempted murder and aggravated assault charges can net serious penalties. Having an experienced attorney at your side when you’re facing these type of allegations can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
In this situation, the 52-year-old suspect reportedly encountered the officer in front of Ponderosa High School. According to The Castle Rock News Press, the suspect had been drinking at a bar in Franktown and left the establishment without paying. When the bar manager chased after him, the suspect reportedly threatened the manager. When the manager told him the police were on their way, the suspect reportedly held a gun to the head of a patron who had been walking nearby.
A short struggle ensued, after which time the suspect reportedly left. The first officer to encounter him pulled him over in front of the high school. In a flash, prosecutors said, the suspect fired off more than a dozen round at the squad car, striking the officer in the shoulder.
The officer reportedly fired back, striking the suspect twice and causing life-threatening injuries.
The suspect survived, and was charged with attempted murder with extreme indifference, aggravated assault and DUI.
His Castle Rock defense attorney had argued that the suspect had not intended to harm the officer, only to have him return fire. He was aiming for a “suicide by cop,” and as the attorney pointed out, he was almost successful. In fact, a paramedic was brought in to testify that the suspect had pleaded with paramedics to simply let him die.
Other character witnesses were brought in to talk about the defendant’s substance abuse problems, as well as the kind of person he is at the core.
Prosecutors, though, worked to paint a different picture. They mentioned other violent incidents that had occurred in the defendant’s recent past.
Despite the defendant’s apology, the judge still handed down a harsh sentence.
While our Castle Rock criminal defense attorneys realize that judges and the general public tend to take assaults against officers very seriously, there are strategies that can be employed that can help to reduce your penalties.
If you are arrested for a felony in Castle Rock, contact our efense attorneys to assist with your case.
Doll used in Denver Domestic Violence
Dolls are not usually a weapon of choice noted in many Denver domestic violence cases.
However, our Denver domestic violence defense attorneys understand that a police officer, accused of beating his girlfriend, alleges she actually attacked him. That in and of itself wouldn’t be noteworthy, except that the weapon she reportedly used to carry out the attack was a Justin Bieber pop star doll.
It’s an allegation that has office water cooler gatherers giggling like a gaggle of young “Beliebers.”
All joking aside, charges of domestic violence in Denver can be serious, resulting in great harm to your relationships, your reputation and your livelihood. This is especially true in cases like this that involve a police officer. A domestic violence conviction can mean the end to firearm privileges – devastating for anyone serving in law enforcement.
According to ABC 7 News in Denver, the 37-year-old police officer was arrested on charges of misdemeanor assault causing injury, obstructing a telephone service and property damage. According to his arrest warrant, he is accused of pulling out his 42-year-old girlfriend’s hair, punching her in the ribs, kicking in a locked door where she was hiding and beating her on the head with a piece of the busted door.
The girlfriend reportedly video-taped a portion of the alleged assault on her cell phone. The officer, however, audio-recorded a portion of that fight as well. The exact contents of either recording are not immediately available.
The officer, on the other hand, has alleged that his girlfriend hurled the Justin Bieber doll at him, bit his finger, kicked and choked him. He said the doll was thrown at his foot, leaving a large bruise.
Allegedly, the fight began after the officer told his girlfriend their relationship was over and she had to leave. She reportedly refused.
Officers at the scene noted both had documented injuries, including scratches, bite marks and bruises.
The officer was later accused of urging his girlfriend to “take the fall” for the incident, as she is a housewife with “nothing to lose.” He, on the other hand, could lose a great deal.
Castle Rock Felonies Faced by Juveniles Mulled by Lawmakers
Far too many children are being convicted of adult felony crimes in Castle Rock and throughout the state.
That’s according to Colorado lawmakers who want to make it tougher for prosecutors to “direct file” juveniles as adults at their own discretion.
Our Castle Rock felony defense attorneys have seen firsthand cases in which overzealous prosecutors have unfairly filed adult charges on young teens, leaving them vulnerable to the possibility of prison terms or a record that will plague them throughout their adult life.
Certainly, there may be cases in which an extremely violent or heinous act may warrant filing an adult charge. But researchers are finding that in Colorado, that is almost never the case. The Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition reports that there have been almost 2,000 cases that prosecutors “direct-filed” juveniles as adults between 1999 and 2010. Of those, nearly 90 percent involved lower or mid-level felonies. About 15 percent involved some form of homicide. Just 5 percent involved a first-degree murder charge.
This is proof positive that prosecutors are abusing this power – something they of course vehemently deny.
What lawmakers want to do is not even extreme – it would simply require a heightened level of oversight. As it stands now, a prosecutor has the authority to decide whether a juvenile will be tried as an adult. They can rubber stamp the case without any review from a judge. This bill would change that. It would require a judge to sign off on whether the teen would be tried in juvenile or adult court.
The original, over-arching power granted to prosecutors was handed over after a public scare in 1993, sparked by a spate of gang violence that summer. Lawmakers turned around to give prosecutors more discretion in filing such cases, to ensure that violent, youthful offenders weren’t going to be given a chance to get right back out on the streets.
But this new bill, sponsored by Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, would hopefully lessen the lesser-level felonies that juveniles are being direct-filed on – namely, robberies, burglaries and other property crimes.
Nikkel was quoted as saying that the actions of prosecutors are not only contrary to what the law intended, it amounts to an abuse of power.
Denver Marijuana DUI Laws Debated
Lawmakers are mulling over a Denver marijuana DUI statutes might require some revisions.
Our Denver marijuana DUI defense attorneys are not in favor of any measure that impedes on the right of patients to use marijuana for medical ailments.
According to The Associated Press, a bill is being debated that would render someone impaired if they test positive for more than 5 nanograms of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram.
However, there is argument whether that is an accurate measurement of whether someone is too high to drive.
Under the law as it is now, the state says drivers can’t be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but it doesn’t set a limit for how much THC can legally be in a person’s system. The problem, as identified by a number of medical marijuana activists, is that impairment can’t be accurately measured by their THC levels. That means that a patient who takes regular doses of the drug could build up a high THC level, and yet be perfectly sober.
Republican sponsors of this bill say a standard needs to be set so that law enforcement has some clear guidelines. They say that smoking marijuana is a privilege, and users shouldn’t be allowed to endanger others.
Those who oppose the measure aren’t saying that it should be Ok to drive high. But the proposed measurement of impairment won’t be fair. They also say it’s no different than ingesting any other prescription drug. Yet there is no blood test ordered for someone who has been prescribed Oxycodone or Prozac.
The issue has become the center of controversy for a number of state committees, where members haven’t been able to come to an agreement.
In Nevada and Ohio, there is a 2 nanogram limit for marijuana. In Pennsylvania, it’s 5 nanograms. In 12 other states, there is a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to marijuana.
Legislators say the bill could cost more than $1 million to implement statewide.
Felony Arrests in Denver: Cases of Mistaken Identity
There is an alarming trend in Colorado that is gaining national notoriety: mistaken identity in cases of Denver felonies.
Our Denver felony defense attorneys understand that the latest case happened as authorities were chasing down the “32 bandit,” wanted on a host of robbery charges in the area.
According to Denver 9 News, a man was on his way home on East Quincy Avenue when he was pulled over. He soon found himself bewildered when police drew their guns on him, began cursing at him and slapped him with handcuffs.
As it turned out, the “32 Bandit,” so named because of a shirt he wore in one of his alleged crimes, was believed to be responsible for a robbery that happened at a local sandwich shop. Officers believed they were closing in on the suspect, but instead pulled over an innocent man. His skin color and clothing were similar to the alleged suspect.
He was later questioned and then released. The robbery suspect remains at-large.
Police do have a difficult job, and an incident like this might be forgiven – if it had only happened once or twice. However, that unfortunately does not appear to be the case.
A recent article in The New York Times details a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against Denver city and county over what they allege is a pattern in which law enforcement officers routinely arrest the wrong people.
One of the cases highlighted in the suit involves a black man who was mistaken for a white suspect in a Denver sexual assault case. He was jailed for an outrageous nine days, despite repeated pleas to jailers that they had made a grave mistake. He was eventually released.
ACLU pulled Colorado public records to learn that between 2002 and 2009, there have been more than 500 cases in which police in Denver arrested the wrong person. Another 100 cases have been documented since late summer 2009.
Police allege a number of reasons for this – stolen identities, similar names, inaccurate records and sometimes errors by jailers or police. But other times, there doesn’t seem to be any good explanation at all.
That’s why if you are accused of a felony in Denver, your first call needs to be to an experienced criminal defense attorney.