Stricken from the Books

Colorado Supreme Court issues decision preempting state human smuggling statute

The Colorado Supreme Court on Oct. 10 rendered Colorado’s human smuggling statute void. The court decided in Fuentes-Espinoza v. People that the federal Immigration and Nationality Act preempts the state statute on the grounds of conflict and field preemption.

“In reaching this conclusion, the court agrees with a number of federal circuit courts that have reviewed the same INA provisions at issue here,” states the decision. “… the court concludes that section 18-13-128 (of the Colorado Revised Statutes), like the state human smuggling statutes at issue in the federal cases, stands asan obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of Congress’s purposes and objectives in enacting its comprehensive framework,” stated the decision.


The Supreme Court’s decision overturned an earlier ruling by the Colorado Court ofAppeals, which upheld defendant Bernardino Fuentes-Espinoza’s conviction under the statute. Fuentes-Espinoza was convicted of seven counts of human smuggling after his arrest in Wheat Ridge while transporting several people from Phoenix to Kansas.

Fuentes-Espinoza argued federal law preempts Colorado’s smuggling statute for the first time when he appealed his convictions. The appeals court did not consider the argument because Fuentes-Espinoza had not brought itupin the original trial, but the Supreme Court reviewed the argument de novo.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the October 16, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.