Indeterminate Sentencing in Colorado

What Is Colorado Indeterminate Sentencing and Why Should I Care?

In Colorado, the Legislature has characterized sex offenders as the worst of criminals. Because a few sex offenders are what might be characterized as habitual offenders, the Legislature has authorized and made mandatory lifetime imprisonment for people convicted of certain sex offenses. This overreaction to the fact that some sex offenders will repeat their crimes has caused many innocent or one-time offenders to receive potentially lifetime sentences.

Indeterminate sentencing in Arapahoe County and others refers to sentences with a minimum range, but no upper range. In Weld County, Summit County, Grand County and other Colorado county felony cases, the judge can sentence a defendant to prison (Department of Corrections) for a specific time, four years, for example. When the defendant has served a portion of that sentence, maybe two years, the parole board will consider an early release on parole ("parole eligibility"). With indeterminate sentencing, the defendant will get a minimum sentence, but no upper limit. So, on a typical sexual offense, the court might give a sentence of "four years to life." In practicality, the defendant will serve more than four years before being given serious consideration for parole. If the Colorado parole board considers the defendant eligible for parole, there will be a hearing on the decision to release, where all interested parties can give input on the decision.

Political considerations influence the release date for a sex offender in Colorado. The parole board is appointed by the governor. Its decisions (good or bad) reflect on the governor, so it is careful to consider the political implications of any release. Sex offenders are vilified by politicians and the media, so their release is with the greatest of caution. Why should someone risk his or her career on a sex offender?

The availability of sex offender treatment in the Department of Corrections will impact the parole eligibility of a sex offender inmate. The Colorado parole board does not want to release sex offenders into the community until they have successfully completed a portion of the standardized Colorado Sex Offender Management Board treatment (S.O.M.B.). Often, inmates tell us there is no space in SOMB classes, so they are not considered good candidates for parole. A question arises in this situation as to whether it might be less expensive for the state to hire more SOMB treaters, than to continue to house a rapidly growing sex offender population filled with inmates who are simply waiting for a spot in treatment.

The Fear Factor Behind Indeterminate Sentencing in Colorado

The bottom line in Denver County, Colorado, is that sex offenders are feared by politicians, judges, district attorneys, probation officers and the parole board. If a sex offender reoffends, and blame can be directed to anyone who had authority over the sex offender, someone's job might be in jeopardy. It is easy for Monday morning quarterbacks to come in and say the judge or probation officer should have imposed stricter conditions on the repeat offender, even if the judge or probation officer did a thorough job with the information available to him or her. With heavy media attention on sex offense cases, everyone in contact with the sex offender will exercise extreme care and overtreat, oversupervise and overpunish sex offenders so they can't be blamed if an unknown risk reoffends. No one wants to take even a small part of the blame when a sex offender commits another crime. Colorado indeterminate sentencing ensures that those in authority within our criminal justice system have whatever time they need, including a lifetime, to be sure a sex offender is safe in the community.

With indeterminate sentencing on the books in Jefferson County, Adams County and Douglas County, Colorado, it is crucial that people facing the possibility of sex offender sentencing contact an experienced Colorado lawyer for assistance.  At the O'Malley Law Office, P.C., we have represented hundreds of sex offenders and are familiar with the Colorado court process. Indeterminate sentences can be avoided in many cases if the defendant has experienced legal representation. So exercise your right to remain silent, be smart and call us at 303-731-0719. Together, we can protect your future.

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