By Michael Karlik . . . Prosecutors will soon receive an answer to a question the state Supreme Court created in 2019: are hundreds of sex offender sentences in Colorado actually illegal?
Following the Court’s unanimous ruling in Allman v. People that criminal sentences are impermissible if they include both prison and probation, the justices have agreed to hear two appeals from the Denver District Attorney’s Office to clear up whether their decision extends to the sentencing of those who commit sex offenses.
If the answer is yes, current sentences would be up for revision or possibly repeal.
The cases scheduled for oral argument in March involve defendants sentenced under the Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act, which allows indeterminate sentences in the Department of Corrections that can last up to a lifetime for crimes ranging from sexual assault to child trafficking. A state review from 2016 found that the percentage of the prison population subject to lifetime sentences has slowly risen to roughly 9% of all inmates, and sex offenders with a sentence of any duration comprise one-quarter.
“There is no guarantee that the parole board will ever release a sex offender,” explains the Denver law firm of O’Malley and Sawyer. “A sex offender must also complete part of the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board treatment while they are in prison. Many times, due to limited treatment resources in DOC, the treatment program is already being used by the maximum number of inmates.”
The legislature also created sex offender intensive supervised probation that features a raft of conditions and restrictions on convicted individuals. Among other requirements, they must register as a sex offender, pay for their own genetic testing, refrain from contact with any children without approval and participate in a treatment program.
The Denver appeals will now enable the Supreme Court to clarify whether it intended to forbid the combination of prison and probation that SOLSA allows, even though the Court banned the practice generally.