Coronavirus is quickly shifting the landscape of this country – even the legal landscape hasn’t come away unaltered. A perfect example? The way Colorado is starting to handle low-level crimes in the state.
It’s thought that this course of action will protect both the inmates and staff in jails, where social distancing practices are much harder to maintain.
Here’s what you need to know about the change in protocols for low-level crimes in Colorado and how having an attorney lined up may help you get (or stay) out of jail for low-level crimes right now.
What Does Colorado Consider Low-Level Crimes?
In Colorado, low-level crimes are often petty offenses and non-violent crimes and some drug crimes. These include things such as:
- Public indecency
- Theft of items of low value
- Illegal gambling
- Pollution violations
- Disturbing the peace
What Is Changing in Colorado?
Normally, a person accused of a non-violent, low-level crime would still be arrested and wait in jail to appear in court. Today, police officers are being urged to issue a summons to court instead of making an arrest.
A legal summons orders a person to appear in court before a judge. It doesn’t mean the defendant will not face charges for the crimes, simply that they won’t be taken into custody before going before a judge.
This is occurring because state lawmakers feel that reducing the number of people in jails will reduce the number of coronavirus infections too.
What If You’re In a CO Jail Already?
If you’re currently in jail for a low-level crime, then the district attorney may consider a release. In fact, some inmates that have serious health conditions or a compromised immune system that the state has concluded can be safely released are being recommended for release.
Also, inmates that meet the following criteria are being recommended for release as well:
- Have less than 45 days left in their sentence, or
- Are in jail because they can’t afford bond
These early release efforts are meant to reduce the jail population and give everyone the best chance of staying healthy through the coronavirus epidemic.
What Is Being Proposed in Colorado
Aside from letting people out of jail early, issuing a summons instead of making an arrest, and releasing those who can’t afford the bond for a misdemeanor or low-level crimes or who have a certain number of days left on their sentence, there are a few other ideas on the table to help reduce jail populations and assist in social distancing measures.
- Expediating and expanding releases to parole from prisons, especially for older inmates
- Limiting arrests for technical violations of probation and parole
- Holding en masse telephone bond hearings for those who are believed to need a monetary bond
- Prosecutors being encouraged to ask for non-monetary bond as much as is possible
In some Colorado jurisdictions, many of these changes have already been implemented. Even if they haven’t yet in yours, changes are happening at a rapid pace. This is why having a criminal defense attorney on your side to help you understand all the change and what they mean for your case is essential.
You may be entitled to request early release or avoid being in court altogether – but you may not realize it if you do not have an attorney to inform and guide you.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.