Saturday, September 29, 2012

Colorado Court of Appeals People v. Juanda 11CA1226

Decision here.

   Juanda sold drugs to a DEA agent on multiple occasions, and was charged into the state courts.  After his conviction, he was ordered to pay $11k restitution to the DEA for "buy money" that the agents had not recovered at the time of the sales.  Juanda appealed the restitution order, arguing that the DEA wasn't a victim and therefore couldn't receive restitution.

   The Court of Appeals agreed with the district court that the restitution statute authorizes this sort of order, and affirmed the order.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Colorado Court of Appeals People in the Interest of K.W. 11CA1951

Decision here.

   This one is barely worth mentioning, but since this issue made it to an appellate court...

   K.W. is a juvenile who was threatening other kids at school.  The kids she was threatening went to a security guard for protection, and then K.W. and her friend approached them and started acting aggressively towards them.  The security guard pushed K.W. back, and K.W. shouted "Fuck you!" at the guard repeatedly.  Neither the guard nor the other students present were particularly offended by this phrase.  K.W. was eventually convicted of disorderly conduct, under the subsection that reads "A person commits disorderly conduct if he or she intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly makes a coarse and obviously offensive utterance, gesture, or display in a public place and the utterance, gesture, or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace."  K.W. argued that since no breach of the peace actually occurred following her coarse and obviously offensive utterances, the evidence was insufficient to support this conviction.

   The court of appeals held that K.W.'s behavior at the time of the incident indicated an intent to breach the peace.  The fact that no further breach occurred changes nothing.  Conviction (or adjudication of delinquency, really) upheld.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Colorado Supreme Court People v. Pittman 12SA101

Decision here.

   Pittman was being investigated for child abuse, and she showed up at the police station voluntarily to take a polygraph test.  She failed, and the polygrapher told her so.  Then she was questioned by the investigating officer in another room for a few minutes, and she made some incriminating statements.  All of this was done with no Miranda warnings.

   Pittman was charged with child abuse and some other crimes.  The trial court ruled that once she was informed that she had failed the polygraph she would not have felt free to leave and therefore she was in custody for Miranda purposes and should have been warned of her rights.  Since she wasn't warned, her statements were suppressed.  The people filed an interlocutory appeal.

   The Colorado Supreme Court reversed the suppression for a couple of reasons.  First, the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard: Miranda custody is not determined by whether or not a reasonable person would believe that they are free to leave.  Miranda custody is determined by whether or not a reasonable person would believe that they have been deprived of their freedom of action to the degree associated with formal arrest.  Quite the mouthful... in loose terms, that just means that we don't have to read Miranda every time we detain someone (although it's still important to note that Miranda custody isn't necessarily what most cops think of as an arrest.  Other decisions have made it clear that Miranda becomes an issue way before we say any magic words, start transporting people to the jail, or sometimes before we even decide whether or not we'll do those things later).  Second, the trial court based its custody decision on one fact without considering the totality of the circumstances.  In this case, the trial court didn't consider things like the duration of the interview, the mood (that's right, the mood!), the lack of restraints, etc, etc.

   Since the trial court applied the wrong legal standard and also failed to consider all the circumstances, the suppression was reversed and the case was remanded back to the trial court to determine whether or not the statement should be suppressed using the correct legal standard.  The Supreme Court didn't make a final determination that the statement was or was not admissible, it just told the trial court "Do that again, only do a good job this time."