GOV. RITTER SIGNS CRIMINAL JUSTICE LEGISLATION
Gov. Bill Ritter today signed into law a package of 10 criminal justice bills that will improve public safety by strengthening the state’s commitment to being tough on crime and smart on crime.
Six of the bills stem directly from recommendations from the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, a 27-member bipartisan panel created by Gov. Ritter in 2007.
“Our criminal justice system is tasked with one of the most important responsibilities in our society – maintaining public safety and protecting communities,” said Gov. Ritter, who served as Denver’s district attorney for 12 years before becoming governor. “What we have created here in Colorado, particularly the past few years, is a system that is tough on crime and smart on crime.
“We can do both. We are doing both, because public safety is not a zero-sum game. Certainly, we can always do better. We can always make improvements. And that’s what we are doing here today by signing this legislation into law.”
The six bills proposed by the Criminal Justice Commission:
House Bill 1347 (Levy/Morse) enhances punishments for repeat drunken drivers through increased, mandatory and consistent jail sentences -- 10 days for a second offense, 60 days for a third or subsequent offense – and mandatory post-jail treatment for alcohol and substance abuse.
“Too often, repeat offenders get away with a slap on the wrist from some judges. There’s simply not enough consistency in penalties for chronic drunk driving,” Rep. Claire Levy said. “We’ve heard the public’s concern loud and clear: If you are a repeat drunk driver, you will see the inside of a jail cell - period. This law makes sure Colorado’s roads and Colorado’s families are safe.”
“This bill strikes an important balance between the certainty of punishment if you drive drunk and necessity of treatment for chronic alcohol abusers,” Sen. John Morse said.
House Bill 1081 (Priola/Steadman) places the crime of money laundering under the state’s fraud statutes and allows the prosecution of offenders under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act.
House Bill 1338 (McCann/Steadman) allows judges to create appropriate sentences and allows for additional offenders to be eligible for probation. “HB 1338 restores judicial discretion in sentencing certain nonviolent offenders to probation rather than prison. This bill saves money and saves lives,” Sen. Pat Steadman said.
House Bill 1352 (Waller/Steadman) recognizes the distinction between drug users and manufacturers and dealers. It reduces the penalties for possession of smaller quantities of certain drugs while increasing the penalties for sale of drugs by an adult to a minor. Importantly, it uses the projected savings of $1.5 million for offenders’ substance abuse treatment.
House Bill 1373 (T. Carroll/Hudak) allows the sentences for certain community corrections escapes to be served concurrently rather than consecutively.
House Bill 1374 (Ferrandino/Penry) givers the state Parole Board new tools to decide who might be paroled and to determine the conditions of parole. “This bill will give the parole board the tools to make smarter and more transparent decisions while ensuring public safety,” said Rep. Mark Ferrandino
The other four bills signed into law today:
House Bill 1277 (DelGrosso & Waller/Steadman) prohibits sexual conduct between inmates in juvenile and community corrections facilities and volunteers, contractors and staff.
House Bill 1360 (Pace/Steadman) allows punishment in the community for technical violators who are on parole for low-level, nonviolent crimes with no pending felony involvement.
“It saves the state millions of dollars by providing more intermediate sanctions for technical parole violators,” Rep. Sal Pace said. “These programs not only save the state money, but more importantly they are proven though research to reduce recidivism rates. That means fewer crimes, fewer victims and greater cost savings in the future.”
“This is a smart on crime way to make better use of taxpayer funds to help parolees successfully transition back to society rather than returning prison,” Sen. Steadman said.
House Bill 1413 (Levy & May/Newell & Lundberg) refines the process of filing serious charges against youthful offenders. It acknowledges the appropriateness of more transparency and oversight when juveniles are to be charged as adults.
“Children who commit crimes need to understand the consequences of their actions, and the courts need to look at all considerations while charging and sentencing a child,” Sen. Linda Newell said. “This bill ensures that justice will be served while also ensuring that children are treated fairly."
“I'm grateful that the governor is signing House Bill 1413,” Sen. Kevin Lundberg said. “This bill strikes the right balance for district attorneys and the courts when charging a minor with adult felony crimes.”
Senate Bill 54 (Hudak/Levy) requires school districts to provide educational services during the regular school year to juveniles who are charged as adults and being held pending trial in county jails or other facilities that detain adult offenders.