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Colorado Criminal Defense Blog

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Clemency is an extraordinary measure, and only the Colorado Governor has the legal authority to grant clemency for any offense.

There are two types of Colorado clemency: commutation and pardon. Pardons are granted once the sentence for a conviction is served and grant public forgiveness for the crime. Conversely, clemency is granted while a convicted offender is serving time in jail or prison, and commutes or modifies the sentence required of the offender.

In Colorado, the most applicable form of clemency is a commutation of sentence, so we’ve put together a guide focused on this particular type of clemency, and how to go about applying for a commutation of sentence.

Commutation of Sentence in Colorado

Commutation of a sentence refers to changing an offenders’ present penalty to a less-severe form of punishment, usually reserved for crimes that carry a lengthier prison sentence.

In order to be eligible for a commutation of sentence, inmates must be able to meet extensive eligibility criteria and to make a strong argument for why the sentence should be commuted.

Colorado’s Eligibility Criteria for Sentence Commutation

In order to be eligible for commutation of sentence, applicants must meet a complex set of criteria, which the inmate must be able to prove.

Basic Inmate Criteria

There are three initial stipulations for being considered eligible for commutations. They are that an inmate is:

  • Currently incarcerated in a jail, community placement center, private contractor facility, or out-of-state facility
  • Not currently on parole, or within 15 months of parole eligibility
  • Not currently participating in an Intensive Supervision Program (ISP)

Requirements with Respect to Timing

Applicants must also meet a number of time eligibility requirements with respect to sentence, time served, and time remaining:

  • Death Sentence – Inmates must have been sentenced to death, which usually is commuted to life without parole if the application is successful.
  • Life Sentences with Single Sentence – Inmates must have served an estimated one-third of their sentence to parole eligibility or a full 10 years, whichever is less.
  • Multiple Life Sentences with Consecutive Sentencing: Inmates must serve at least 10 full years.
  • Other Sentences: Inmates must serve one-third of the actual sentence or 10 calendar years, whichever is less.

Disqualifying Conduct While Confined

Inmates must have exhibited good behavior while confined, and must not have committed the following prohibited forms of conduct while incarcerated:

  • Penal Discipline Class 1 or Class II violation within a 2 year period
  • Housed in Administrative Segregation

The Commutation Application Process in Colorado

If you are considering applying for clemency, it is recommended to seek the expert help of a Denver Colorado Pardon Defense Lawyer. Clemency is an extraordinary measure, and to have your best chance for success, you need an expert on your side.

To initiate the application process, applicants must complete the Executive Clemency Application and choose the type of clemency sought.

The application must include the following attachments, many of which require a significant amount of effort and expertise:

  • A personal letter to the Governor stating the specific reasons for the request
  • A recent Performance Review Summary of the inmate’s behavior while incarcerated
  • Admission Data Summary and Diagnostic Summary completed upon the inmate’s admission to the DOC
  • Documentation of psychiatric or psychological conditions
  • If applicable, reports of disciplinary actions and sanctions
  • The most recent computation of time served and remaining
  • Most recent FBI record of arrest
  • Pertinent law enforcement communications, including but not limited to detainers or notification requests
  • A current report of diagnosis, prognosis, and recommendations for ongoing medical or mental health problems, if applicable
  • Additional documents, references, or pieces of evidence that would assist the Governor in making an informed decision of whether to grant an executive pardon.

Denver Clemency Lawyer

Clearly, applying for executive pardons is a complex and in-depth — but also potentially life-changing — process. If you think that your case or your loved one’s case could be eligible for an executive pardon, it is an avenue well worth pursuing.


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