Court Opinions- May 27, 2019

People v. Anderson

The People petitioned for review of the Court of Appeals’ judgment vacating Richard Anderson’s conviction for attempted extreme indifference murder.  

Anderson had made comments at a bar that he was suicidal and had a gun. After he got into a dispute with the bar’s manager and a customer, he threatened to shoot them both. After the manager called the police, Anderson pointed the gun at them both and then drove away. A police officer later pulled his car over, and Anderson got out of his car and began shooting at the police officer. Through their gunfight, Anderson shot the officer in the arm, and the officer shot Anderson in the neck and abdomen, injuring him. 

Through the arguments of counsel at his trial, the defendant presented his theory of defense — that he did not intend to harm or kill the deputy but only wanted to be killed by the deputy’s return fire.

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.

Because the statutory definition of extreme indifference murder does 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 was remanded for consideration of any assignments of error concerning that conviction not yet addressed

People v. Tomaske

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 Supreme Court was tasked with determining whether 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. The court further found that 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 that the evidence of Tomaske’s alleged criminal acts was sufficiently attenuated from the police misconduct. Therefore, the court ruled that evidence of what transpired inside the house should not be suppressed. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s suppression order.

People v. McKnight

Through the use of a drug dog trained to alert on drugs, including marijuana, police officers discovered a pipe with methamphetamine residue inside Kevin McKnight’s truck. That discovery culminated in McKnight’s conviction for certain drug offenses. On appeal, he challenged the constitutionality of the search that revealed the pipe.

A division of the Court of Appeals reversed McKnight’s convictions. Each member of the division wrote separately, wrestling with what effect, if any, legalized marijuana in Colorado should have on the constitutionality of the search of McKnight’s truck. Because of marijuana’s legality, a dog’s sniff arguably intrudes on a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy in lawful activity.

McKnight claimed that the Colorado Constitution prohibited the dog’s intrusion without at least reasonable suspicion that McKnight had committed or was committing a crime. Because there was none, McKnight asserted that the trial court should have suppressed the pipe. Two members of the division agreed. 

McKnight further argued that there was no probable cause for the post-sniff hand search of his truck that revealed the pipe. Again, because of Amendment 64, two members of the division agreed. 

The People countered that, despite Amendment 64, marijuana remains contraband in many circumstances at the state level, and illegal under all circumstances federally, and thus the dog’s sniff was not a search requiring so much as reasonable suspicion. The People further contended that an alert from a dog trained to detect marijuana, in addition to other substances, still provides probable cause justifying a search.

The Supreme Court held that a sniff from a drug-detection dog that is trained to alert to marijuana constitutes a search under the Colorado Constitution because that sniff can detect lawful activity, namely the legal possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older. 

The court further held that, 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 the dog’s search of McKnight’s truck, the trial court erred in denying McKnight’s motion to suppress.

The court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. Justice Will Hood delivered the opinion of the court. Chief Justice Nathan Coats dissented, joined by justices Brian Boatright and Carlos Samour. Samour also penned his own dissent joined by Boatright. 

This opinion is discussed in greater detail on page 8.

People v. Gadberry

This case is a companion case to People v. McKnight. 

A Drug-detection dog alerted police to Amanda Gadberry’s truck, but the officers didn’t know whether the dog found marijuana, which is legal in some circumstances in Colorado, or meth, which never is. 

The Supreme Court wrote that it saw no difference between Gadberry’s situation and McKnight’s. The dog’s training demanded probable cause before the drug-detection dog’s deployment, just as it did in McKnight.

In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court held that the officers needed probable cause to deploy Talu. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s suppression order.

As in People v. McKnight, Justice William Hood delivered the opinion of the court, Chief Justice Nathan Coats dissented, joined by justices Brian Boatright and Carlos Samour, and Samour penned a dissent joined by Boatright.

City of Golden v. Sodexo America

In the dining hall at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, tax is handled differently depending on whether students pay with cash or with a “BlasterCard.”  

Sodexo, Mines’ food service provider, collects sales tax on the cash transactions and remits the tax to Golden. Not so when a student swipes a BlasterCard to use a meal-plan credit. 

During the time at issue, Mines loaded each meal-plan student’s BlasterCard, which is a student’s identification card, with an individual meal plan choice. To use their meal plans, students swiped their BlasterCards at a dining facility. 

Sodexo had nothing to do with loading the students’ BlasterCards with their meal plans — that was all handled by Mines.

Sodexo also had no way of knowing if a student had fully paid for his or her meal plan, and Sodexo had no way of enforcing collections against a student who hadn’t fully paid. But neither Mines nor Sodexo collected any sales tax on these meal-plan meals.

When Golden’s finance department audited Sodexo and discovered that sales tax for these meal plans had not been collected, it issued a sales and use tax assessment. Sodexo protested and lost and later appealed to the district court. The court granted summary judgment for Golden, finding that Sodexo had engaged in taxable retail sales directly to Mines’ students, rather than tax-exempt wholesale sales to Mines.

Sodexo appealed again, and the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment, concluding that there were two sales transactions at issue: one between Mines and Sodexo, and the other between Mines and its students. The court further concluded that Mines and Sodexo were engaged in tax-exempt wholesale transactions. Accordingly, the division remanded for entry of judgment in Sodexo’s favor.

The Supreme Court granted Golden’s request to review the decision. But, the court agreed with the Court of Appeals that two transactions took place: one between Sodexo and Mines, another between Mines and its students. The Supreme Court concluded that Sodexo sold the meal-plan meals to Mines at wholesale, and, accordingly, these transactions were exempt from taxation. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

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