Thursday, October 13, 2011

Drug Court Launched for Arapahoe and Douglas Counties

Commencing October 14, Douglas and Arapahoe Counties will be served by a new "Recovery Court," traditionally referred to as a drug court. These courts are alternative sentencing mechanisms designed to reduce the number of defendants convicted of drug offenses who are sentenced to jail by placing them in a comprehensive supervision and treatment program that is overseen directly by a judge. Persons sentenced to drug court must appear regularly before the judge to have their compliance and recovery progress reviewed, and if necessary, modify certain aspects of their supervision.

The program has been used for several years now in Denver, where it has shown noticeable success in reducing both the jail population and recidivism. Denver has also pioneered a similar review court system for DUI offenders, but so far no other jurisdictions have followed suit.

Several sentencing alternatives may be available to criminal defendants here in Colorado, depending on the offense and surrounding circumstances. Before pleading guilty to any crime, an experienced criminal defense attorney should be consulted in order to learn the various possible consequences of a criminal conviction.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

No Per Se Levels for Marijuana DUI...For Now

The DUI(Drugs)--Marijuana Working Group, operating under the auspices of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, has decided not to recommend a specific blood-level concentration of THC, the intoxicant contained in marijuana, to establish per se proof of intoxication and/or impairment. Earlier this year, the Colorado General Assembly addressed the issue (HB 11-1261) and decided that there was insufficient scientific evidence to conclusively establish that a particular level of THC resulted in intoxication and/or impairment in drivers. The aim of the bill was to establish a THC level that could be accepted as prima facie evidence that a person was impaired or under the influence with respect to operating a motor vehicle, much as the .08 and .05 alcohol levels operate to establish whether a driver is under the influence and impaired under current state law. Given the far greater use of marijuana in light of relaxed Colorado laws pertaining to marijuana use and possession in recent years, the Colorado criminal justice system has seen a significant increase in the number of cases alleging driving under the influence or driving while ability impaired caused by marijuana use.

The decision by the Working Group reinforces the findings by the General Assembly that, at least for the time being with the level of scientific knowledge and research available, THC levels cannot be used to conclusively establish intoxication or impairment in a broad application to the population as a whole. It is unlikely, however, that we have heard the last of the debate on this issue. A charge of driving under the influence or while ability impaird by marijuana is a serious charge that can be even more complex than a similar case involving alcohol, and an experienced attorney is essential in helping a defendant assess his legal options.

Members of the Working Group include marijuana legal advocate Sean McAllister, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, State Judicial Department rep Heather Garwood, Division of Behavorial Health rep Christine Flavia, Colorado Spring Police rep Rod Walker, Eagle County DA Mark Hurlbert and drug addiction counselor Laura Spicer. Their formal report will be presented to the Commission next week.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Denver Adopts "Sobriety Courts" for Repeat DUI Offenders

Repeat DUI offenders in Denver will now be given the opportunity to participate in the city's "Sobriety Court" program as an alternative to lengthy jail sentences traditionally imposed. Based on the "Drug Court" program that has enjoyed extended success, defendants with previous drug/alcohol-related driving offenses can participate in an intense court-supervised treatment regimen that requires frequent (often weekly) reviews by the court of the defendant's progress in the program. Before institution of this new option, most judges relied on lengthy jail sentences of six months or more in addressing cases involving DUI/DWAI defendants with more than one prior offense. The goal of the program is to ensure complete compliance with substance-abuse treatment regimens and prevent recidivism. It has been reported that in Denver, about a third of alcohol-related driving offenses are committed by previous offenders.