When someone goes to court for sexual assault, the victim often tells their side of the story. Sexual assault can be traumatic, and reliving the horror of the incident can bring further trauma, especially if the victim is telling the story to a room of strangers under great pressure.
Just retelling their story in one court can negatively impact a victim… but this doesn’t always happen just once. Cases that span multiple jurisdictions (where the alleged offender may have repeatedly assaulted the victim) may require multiple trials. At each trial, the victim must relive the horror of their story.
This can cause great trauma for any victim, but if the victim is a child, the emotions involved are magnified for everyone involved. Because of this, lawmakers have decided to change the way these trials are handled in Colorado.
Rep. Terri Carver and Rep. Jesse Danielson recently introduced House Bill 17-1109, which would consolidate multiple trials that involve sex assault on a child or sex assault on a child in a position of trust charges into a single trial. The one trial would occur in a court located in the area where either the sexual contact occurred or the victim resided while being assaulted.
HB 17-1109 has already passed in the House of Representatives, and now it is moving on to the Senate.
What HB 17-1109 Means for Defendants
This bill is unapologetically written to benefit young victims of sexual assault. While there is nothing wrong with preventing further trauma for these victims, let’s look at the other side of the bill.
In every sexual assault case, there is a victim who has to tell their story, and an alleged offender who is facing years behind bars. Each charge can contribute to his or her sentence. When someone is charged in multiple jurisdictions, they have the opportunity to tell their side of the story to multiple judges and juries.
These judges may have differing opinions. Some judges may be more sympathetic after hearing evidence that defends the alleged offender. Others may request that the offender seek rehabilitation rather than inflicting a harsh punishment. After all, Colorado sentencing guidelines are just that – guidelines.
The suggested sentence for sexual assault of a child, or sexual assault of a child in a position of trust, should still be taken seriously. These charges are felonies, and a conviction could result in up to 48 years in prison if the appropriate aggravating factors are present. In addition to jail time and fines, offenders may be placed on Colorado’s sex offender registry. A spot on this registry, along with a criminal history, can prevent an offender from getting jobs, finding housing, buying a firearm, securing a loan, and more.
HB 17-1109 still has to pass in the Senate and head to the governor’s desk before it can be signed into law. At the moment, multiple trials will still be held, giving defendants multiple opportunities to tell their story. Each of these trials must be treated with the same amount of care as the one before. Which is how it should be when your life and future are on the line.
If you have been arrested or charged with sex crimes, don’t delay. Talk to a Colorado sex crimes lawyer to about what you can do to give yourself the best chance at receiving a positive outcome.
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.