Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill Monday March 23, 2020 abolishing the death penalty in Colorado. This has been an effort led by criminal justice reformers since 2007. Polis also commuted the sentences of three men currently on death row. Seldom used since the death penalty was reinstated in Colorado in the 1970's, the only person executed since was Gary Davis, convicted of rape and murder, in 1997. Colorado is now the 22nd state to eliminate the death penalty.
The most heinous criminal offenders among us can still be punished and kept out of the community forever by receiving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, tax payers save money on a failed and wasteful bureaucracy, and it can no longer be used to unfairly and disproportionately target the disenfranchised, minorities, and people of color. Our criminal justice system is imperfect and death, by its very nature, is final. Consider this: according to the ACLU, Since 1973, over 156 death row inmates have been released due to factual innocence. How many other innocent people slipped through the cracks and were killed because of this practice: one is enough.
We have decided as a society that murder is wrong. We have decided as a society that two wrongs don't make a right. Yet state sponsored killing continues around this country.
Starting March 1, 2020, a new offense classification scheme is in place for drug possession cases in Colorado.
The effect? Small possession cases (those that involve 4 grams or less) of schedule I and II drugs (some common examples are methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, fentaynl, and prescribed narcotic pain medication) are now a drug misdemeanor (DM1), instead of a drug felony (DF4).
The bill also prohibits a prosecutor from charging you with possession for a minuscule amount that is found within a syringe, baggie, or other paraphernalia.
Further, The bill makes possession of more than 6 ounces of marijuana or more than 3 ounces of marijuana concentrate a level 1 drug misdemeanor and makes possession of 3 ounces or less of marijuana concentrate a level 2 drug misdemeanor.
To be clear, if elements or indication of possession with intent to sell are present, prosecutors can and will pursue felony charges. The purpose of this change is to reduce the amount of personal use addicts and offenders who have ended up in the Colorado prison system and to refocus efforts on rehabilitation.
The above is meant only as a summary, and the law can be found and read in full here: HB19-1263
According to the Denver Post, there are more marijuana dispensaries in Colorado than Starbucks. With marijuana legalization in Colorado and its increased accessibility comes confusion and new challenges surrounding the law of marijuana use and driving.
In Colorado, driving while under the influence of marijuana can land you a misdemeanor charge for DUI (assuming it’s not your fourth or subsequent offense, which can be charged as a felony). Contrary to popular belief, this behavior is not legal because marijuana itself is legal, nor is there a separate or lesser offense for driving high on marijuana. Instead, like alcohol, it falls under the Colorado DUI statue (C.R.S. Section 42-4-1301). DUI is defined as follows:
Unlike alcohol, legislators in Colorado did not create a “per se” offense based only on the level of THC in your blood. They did, however, create a “permissible inference”, which allows jurors to infer your guilt if you have 5 nanograms or more of Delta-9 THC (marijuana’s active psychoactive component) in your blood as shown by a blood test. This is not required, however, as the jury can also choose not make this inference of guilt, if the other facts of the case lead them to that conclusion. Conversely, if your level is below 5 nanograms, the jury can choose to infer you were not driving under the influence.
So, when are you legally too high to be driving? First, before I go there, don’t put yourself or others in a potentially dangerous situation by driving a motor vehicle while, or close to when you have ingested or inhaled marijuana. While the science is still evolving, driving a motor vehicle is not like playing a video game, and generally speaking, getting high does not make you a better driver. Even if you believe you feel "OK" to drive, you don’t want to find yourself facing a DUI allegation and put in the position of convincing a police officer, prosecutor, or jury that you're right. It’s not worth it, get a ride or wait it out.
If you do, however, find yourself charged with a DUI, for suspicion of being under the influence of marijuana, your THC level is one significant factor prosecutors and jurors will rely on, in determining your guilt or innocence. However, what your THC level can actually tell us about when you smoked marijuana, how much you smoked, how marijuana affects you personally, and whether you were still experiencing the intoxicating effects of the drug at the time of driving is sorely lacking. Using an expert to help explain this to a jury can be useful in some cases. If you refuse to take a blood test, you can still be prosecuted based on other facts and evidence available to the officer. (Note: like alcohol, refusing to submit to a blood test, assuming an officer is in the right and has probable cause to suspect you are under the influence of marijuana while driving, will likely result in some revocation of your driving privileges, and the fact of your refusal can be used against you by the prosecutor at trial)
Whether you are arrested, charged, and ultimately convicted of a DUI due to marijuana use, can ultimately come down to the police officer involved and his or her claimed observations of you. The officer’s behavior, credibility, knowledge, and thoroughness can impact how strong the evidence is against you. Police officers will use their observations of the following to make their case:
The standardized roadside tests, however, were developed based on studies involving alcohol intoxication, and are not designed with THC in mind. Aspects of the roadside test's meaningfulness can be challenged in cases involving marijuana. Occasionally, a more specific (also voluntary) set of field tests are administered by an officer who is called a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) and can be used by the prosecution to demonstrate to a jury that you were high on marijuana. These officers, however, while taught to look for and document certain signs of drug use, are not themselves scientists and the extent of their expertise can sometimes be challenged.
The bottom line is, the blood doesn’t say it all. Instead, all of the above factors, and the facts in your specific case, need to be looked at closely by a Colorado DUI lawyer. An experienced DUI lawyer can evaluate the strength of your case, determine whether experts should be consulted, and ultimately advise you on your best course of action.
Call GOLD LAW 720-772-8647 for a free consultation on your DUI Marijuana case today!
Do you enjoy going to Black Hawk to let loose, win (or more likely throw away) some money at the casino, and share some drinks and entertainment with friends? Plenty of residents in the Denver Metro area take the drive up the canyon on any given weekend for just that. Sure, it is mostly fun and games, but if you don’t play your cards right, you may find yourself charged with a crime: Limited Gaming Fraud (Colorado Limited Gaming Act: “Fraudulent Acts” C.R.S. Section 44-30-822(1)(c)).
You are walking the casino floor and notice a few credits worth a few cents that are left active in a slot machine. You think to yourself, this is my lucky day, and play the machine. Or, maybe, you come across a ticket or a chip worth a few dollars on the casino floor, pick it up and cash it in at the counter or use it to play at a machine or at a table. According to Colorado’s Limited Gaming Act, these credits and chips belong to the casino, and when you play them or cash them in, you are stealing.
If discovered, and believe me, casinos are equipped to look for this and discover violations (always remember, eyes in the sky!), you could be charged with a class one misdemeanor, facing the possibility of fines, community service, probation or even up to 18 months in jail.
Section 44-30-822. [Formerly 12-47.1-823] Fraudulent acts. (1) It is unlawful for a person: … (c) To claim, collect, or take, or attempt to claim, collect, or take, money or anything of value in or from a limited gaming activity with intent to defraud and without having made a wager contingent thereon…
These violations are not necessarily intuitive or commonly thought of as illegal by the average person. It is easy for you or your friends to happen upon one of these opportunities for free play and to think “its my lucky day” or “finder’s keepers.” If you find yourself at a casino in one of these situations, just remember the 2 dollar ticket or 5 dollar chip, is not worth the chance you will be ticketed and charged for this violation.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is prudent to have a lawyer review your case, to determine if the state can prove you violated this statute, and what your options are for fighting the case, or obtaining an alternate resolution to pleading guilty to this offense.
Owner of Gold Law, L.L.C. and Attorney Matthew S. Gold knows Black Hawk and Casino gaming cases, having worked in Gilpin County as a former prosecutor and can get you the best possible result for your case.
Matthew S. GOLd
Owner and Attorney at Gold Law, L.L.C.
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