While the General Assembly managed to pass some high-profile criminal justice-related laws last session, including a repeal of the death penalty and a bill to eliminate the qualified immunity defense for law enforcement officers, several others were derailed by the pandemic.
Lobbyists in the criminal justice realm say many of last year’s ill-fated reforms, such as bills on felony murder and child pornography laws, are expected to get another chance when the legislature returns next month. Lawmakers are also expected to consider changes to extortion laws and court fees in juvenile delinquency cases.
DEFENSE BAR FOCUSES ON FELONY MURDER AND COURT FEES FOR JUVENILES
The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar is focusing on two bills for the upcoming session, according to Tristan Gorman, the organization’s legislative policy coordinator.
The first is a felony murder reform bill. Colorado’s felony murder rule allows a defendant to be charged with first-degree murder if a victim dies during the commission of certain felonies, including arson, robbery, burglary, sexual assault and kidnapping — even if the death wasn’t intentional. The reform bill would reclassify felony murder from a first-class felony to a class 2 felony, allowing judges more discretion in sentencing. The only sentence allowed for a first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A version of the bill was introduced during the 2020 session but didn’t pass due to the pandemic and the suspension of the legislative session. A similar bill was put forth in 2017 but was rejected in a Senate committee vote.