Court Opinions – Sep 30, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court

Al Turki v. People

In re Al Turki v. People, petitioner Homaidan Al Turki motioned for a reduced sentence of a 2006 conviction of 12 counts of unlawful sexual contact under the Colorado Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act of 1998 on the grounds that a 20-year sentence was illegal. Chief Justice Nathan Coats and justices Brian Boatright and Melissa Hart are of the opinion that the judgment of the Court of Appeals should be affirmed; whereas justices Monica Márquez, Will Hood and Rich Gabriel are of the opinion that it should be reversed. Justice Carlos Samour did not participate. Because the court was equally divided, the judgment of the Court of Appeals was affirmed by operation of law. 

Allman v. People

Frederick Leroy Allman appealed his convictions for identity theft, raising issues concerning his sentencing, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Allman then petitioned for further review contending that: (1) identity theft is a continuing offense; (2) because identity theft is a continuing offense, his convictions for the eight identity theft counts should have merged at sentencing; (3) some of his convictions were based on identical evidence and thus require concurrent sentences; and (4) the court could not legally sentence him to both imprisonment and probation for different counts in the same case. 

The Colorado Supreme Court held that the crime of identity theft is not a continuing offense and concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Allman separately on the eight counts of identity theft. 

Additionally, the court found that none of the evidence supporting the identity theft counts was identical, so it was within the trial court’s discretion whether to sentence Allman to consecutive sentences on those counts. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals in part, reversed in part and remanded with instructions to return the case to the trial court for resentencing.

Griswold v. National Federation of Independent Business

Section 24-21-104 of Colorado’s Revised Statutes (2019), which outlines the funding mechanism for the Colorado Department of State, directs the department to charge for its services and then use the collected funds to finance the department’s activities. The department, which oversees state elections, is also responsible for registering and licensing businesses. The National Federation of Independent Business contended that the department’s charges are classified as taxes and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights applies and requires advance voter approval. Because voters have not approved these adjustments, NFIB asserted that this funding scheme violates TABOR. 

The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court properly granted the petitioners’ motion for summary judgment. Based on the record presented, there was no evidence that any post-TABOR adjustment resulted in a new tax, tax rate increase or tax policy change directly causing a net revenue gain. The Supreme Court did not address whether the charges authorized by section 24- 21-104 are taxes subject to TABOR. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, reinstated the trial court’s summary judgment order in favor of the petitioners and remanded for further proceedings. 

People v. Iannicelli and People v. Brandt 

In re People v. Iannicelli and People v. Brandt, the Supreme Court was asked to construe the terms “juror” and “case” in Colorado’s jury tampering statute. 

The court concluded that, for purposes of the jury tampering statute, a “juror” is defined as set forth in section 18-8-601(1) of Colorado’s Revised Statutes (2019) and therefore includes persons who have been drawn or summoned to attend as prospective jurors. Additionally, the court concluded that the jury tampering statute’s references to “a case” and “the case” make clear that, for purposes of that statute, a defendant’s effort to influence a juror must be directed at a specific case. 

Because the People did not charge the defendants with attempting to influence a juror in a specifically identifiable case, the court affirmed the prior judgment of the dismissal of charges against Brandt and Iannicelli. The district court originally ruled that the charges were not directed at a specific case and the actions of the respondents were protected under the First Amendment.

In re Marriage of Boettcher 

At the time of the dissolution of their marriage, father and mother agreed that neither party would pay child support. Several years later, mother, citing a substantial change in father’s income, sought a modification of the original decree so that she could receive child support. The district court conducted an evidentiary hearing to determine whether modification was appropriate. At the hearing, the parties admitted evidence of their incomes showing that mother earned $13,343 per month and father earned $92,356 per month: a combined monthly income far exceeding the highest combined income of $30,000 per month listed in the schedule contained in the statutory child support guidelines codified at section 14-10-115(7)(b), C.R.S. (2019).

In this case, the Supreme Court was asked to determine how a district court should calculate child support obligations when the parties’ combined monthly income exceeds the uppermost income specified in the schedule. The court concluded that the plain language of the child support statute provides that the uppermost award identified explicitly in the schedule is the minimum presumptive award for families with higher incomes. Accordingly, the court held that the district court may, within its discretion, award more than that amount so long as it supports its order with findings made pursuant to section 14-10-115(2)(b).

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