Sexually Violent Predator Ruling Heads to Colorado Supreme Court

Being convicted of a crime can be a life-changing event. From finding work or finding a place to live, everything is that much more difficult for those with a criminal record. Certain crimes carry a stigma that can be difficult to overcome, even after those convicted have paid their debt to society. A sex crimes conviction is just one example where it can be difficult, if not impossible, for the offender to be able to start over. Punishments will include a lengthy prison sentence, as well as having to register as a convicted sex offender.

In Colorado, the offender could also be assessed to determine if he or she is likely to reoffend after being released. The Colorado Supreme Court has recently decided to hear a case regarding an inmate's status as a sexually violent predator. The outcome of the case could have a major impact for offenders who are trying to rebuild their lives.

Risk of Reoffending?

Brandon David Allen was charged with several crimes after he broke into a home and sexually assaulted the resident. He was convicted of these crimes after pleading guilty to the charges. The sexual assault conviction carried a sentence of 25 years to life. When the court was handing down its sentence, the court also determined that Allen was to be considered a sexually violent predator, which was a departure from the recommendations made to the court.

According to Colorado law, when a person is convicted of a certain sex crime, the offender must take part in a sexually violent predator risk assessment program. This is the process that the state uses to determine, based upon several different factors, whether or not the offender is likely to reoffend.

The Colorado Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) has created a form that is to be completed as part of this process. First, officials examine the facts of the case, including the actual charges that were filed, as well as some information about the victim. Did the victim and the offender know one another? Did the offender have any prior sex crimes convictions? Each factor plays a role in determining whether or not to recommend classifying an offender as a sexually violent predator. This recommendation is passed on to the court, and generally, the court makes its ruling based on the suggestions made in the report.

Who Can Apply The Sexually Violent Predator Label?

Allen appealed aspects of his conviction to the Colorado Court of Appeals. One of the issues that the court considered regarded the trial court's decision to classify Allen as a sexually violent predator. Allen claimed that the trial court judge did not have the authority to depart from the committee's recommendations.

The Court of Appeals looked at the statutory language in an effort to understand legislative intent. The statute allows the trial court to make a determination of sexually violent predator status based upon the report that it receives after the risk assessment has been completed. The appellate court used a definition of "based upon" from Black's Law Dictionary, which stated that it meant "an initial or starting point for calculation." They also looked at the law that created the SOMB and defined the scope of its duties. The language from that statute stated that the SOMB was to "assist the sentencing court" in determining whether the offender would be likely to reoffend.

Because of this language, the Court of Appeals stated that the trial court was not bound by the recommendations by the risk assessment. If the court disagreed with the report, it was free to have an offender categorized as a sexually violent predator. Allen's appeals were denied.

The Colorado Supreme Court has granted Allen's request to review this portion of his case. If the Court rules in his favor, it could result in a change in the law. If discretion is lost in these matters, it could be more difficult for someone to fight being labeled a sexually violent predator.

If you have been charged with a sex crime, take these accusations seriously - a conviction can change your life forever. You need to present a strong defense against these allegations. Police will be aggressive in building their case against you, and prosecutors will be under a lot of pressure to receive a conviction in these high-profile cases. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area to understand how best to defend yourself against these charges.