2019 Legislative Session

In 2018, in partnership with the Council of State Governments Justice Center, Governor Hickenlooper launched the Improving Outcomes for Youth Task Force to explore and recommend juvenile justice reform.  The Task Force was led by Democratic Rep. Pete Lee and Republican Sen. Bob Gardner, and included members of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of Colorado government.  CJDC’s former Executive Director, Jeff Cuneo, was appointed and served as a voting member of this important initiative.

For further information on the Improving Outcomes for Youth Task Force, here are some additional news articles:

Colorado Launches Comprehensive Review of Juvenile Justice System

Bob Gardner and Pete Lee Join Forces on Juvenile Justice

State to Review the Juvenile Justice System

In 2019, the Task Force’s legislative recommendations were introduced and passed into law in the Juvenile Justice Reform Bill (SB 19- 108).  The Bill made substantial changes to diversion funding and eligibility, detention eligibility, and probation.  The bill also established an ongoing Juvenile Justice Reform Committee, tasked with adopting a validated risk and needs assessment tool to be used by juvenile courts, DYS, juvenile probation, and parole; selecting a mental health screening tool for juvenile offenders; selecting a validated risk screening tool to be used by district attorneys in determining a juvenile’s eligibility for diversion; selecting a vendor to assist in the implementation of, and training on, the tools; and developing plans for measuring the effectiveness of the tools.

The Bill made clear that detention is harmful to children, and that children should not be detained unless necessary, through a legislative declaration:

The placement of children in a detention facility exacts a negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of the child, and such detention may make it more likely that the child will reoffend.  Children who are detained are more likely to penetrate deeper into the juvenile justice system than similar children who are detained, and community-based alternatives to detention should be based on the principle of using the least-restrictive setting possible and returning a child to his or her home, family, or other responsible adult whenever possible consistent with public safety.  It is the intent of the general assembly in adopting section 19-2-507.5 and amending sections 19-2-212, 19-2-507, and 19-2-508 to limit the use of detention to only those children who pose a substantial risk of serious harm to others or that are a flight risk from prosecution.

Beginning on July 1, 2020, the law limits the circumstances under which a child may be detained.  For example, a child may no longer be detained solely because she is a danger to herself, or because she is awaiting out-of-home placement through a petition in delinquency or neglect.  A child may only be detained if: (a) probable cause exists to believe the juvenile committed the delinquent act charged; (b) the detention screening instrument resulted in a detention-eligible score or there is a valid override of the screening score; and (c) the juvenile poses a substantial risk of serious harm to others or a substantial risk of flight from prosecution and community-based alternatives to detention are insufficient to reasonably mitigate that risk.  Flight from prosecution means more than simply failing to appear; it means a demonstrated record of repeat, recent willful failures to appear at scheduled court appearances.

SB 19-108 also recognized the importance of diversion opportunities for children by expanding funding for diversion to every district statewide, and enacting a new definition and common set of goals for diversion: preventing further involvement in the legal system; providing an alternative to adjudication for juveniles that requires only the least amount of supervision and conditions necessary to decrease the juvenile’s risk of reoffending; serving the best interest of the juvenile while encouraging accountability and restoring harm to victims and communities; reducing the likelihood of reoffending and improving positive outcomes for juveniles through services that address the youth’s needs; and ensuring the availability of appropriate diversion services for all eligible juveniles.

Under SB 19-108, a child may not be denied diversion because of: an inability to pay; previous or current involvement with the Department of Human Services or the Department of Social Services; age, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation; or legal representation. To create additional consistency in eligibility across judicial districts, SB19-108 requires that beginning January 1, 2021, diversion eligibility must be informed by a risk screening tool selected by the state’s Juvenile Justice Reform Committee.  Diversion programs and services will be required to collect and submit data annually for all juveniles participating in diversion and DCJ will provide annual program level reports to District Attorney’s offices and the state legislature.

HB19-1315 Admissibility of Statements by a Juvenile 
Signed into Law May 28, 2019

CCDB championed this bill to fix a problem created by a 2016 Colorado Supreme Court case (People in the Interest of A.L.-C., 382 P.3d 842 (Colo. 2016)), which held that the plain text of 19-2-511 does not require a parent or guardian who is present for custodial interrogation of a juvenile and assists the juvenile with the decision whether to waive Miranda rights have no interests adverse to those of the juvenile; the mere presence of a parent or guardian satisfies the current statutory language.

The bill further protects the juvenile’s rights by requiring the parent or other responsible adult not have an interest adverse to the juvenile’s (e.g., being the alleged victim in the case or being the parent of both the accused and the alleged victim) and thereby be in a position to provide protective counseling to the juvenile on the decision whether to waive Miranda rights during custodial interrogation.  The bill should lead to more juveniles’ statements being suppressed at pre-trial motions hearings.

The bill takes effect 8/2/19.

HB19-1335 Juvenile Record Expungement Clean-up

This bill clarifies which dismissals and alternative dispositions are eligible for automatic expungement. The bill allows expungement of a diversion record without filing a case and allows a victim an opportunity to object. The bill clarifies when a sentence is complete, which triggers the expungement process. Under current law, a class 1 misdemeanor sex offense can be expunged. The bill allows class 2 and class 3 misdemeanor sex offenses to be expunged. The bill requires the juvenile court to determine whether a juvenile who has his or her record expunged for a sex offense should have a continuing duty to register as a sex offender. The bill clarifies to whom the notice of expungement needs to be sent so that only the agencies with the records receive the notice. The bill makes clear that juvenile record expungement applies in municipal court by creating a new section for municipal court expungement.

The bill was signed into law 5/28/19.

HB19-1149 Age of Delinquency Study

This bill directs a task force under CCJJ to study criminal filings in the last 3 years on defendants aged 18-24; study established research on the developing brain; study potential impacts of DYS and YOS if they are used for defendants aged 18-24; make recommendations to the legislature as to appropriate uses for the juvenile justice system on “emerging adults” aged 18-24, and create a report of the findings and recommendations for House and Senate Judiciary Committees by June 30, 2020. 

The bill as introduced only covered young/emerging adults ages 18-20 but was amended so that the study will now cover young adults up to the age of 25, rather than 21, in accordance with brain development science.

The bill was signed into law 5/3/19

SB19-108 Juvenile Justice Reform

The bill establishes a committee on juvenile justice reform in the governor’s office tasked with adopting a validated risk and needs assessment tool to be used by juvenile courts, the division of youth services (DYS), juvenile probation, and the parole department; selecting a mental health screening tool for juvenile offenders; selecting a validated risk screening tool to be used by district attorneys in determining a juvenile’s eligibility for diversion; selecting a vendor to assist in the implementation of and provide training on the tools; and developing plans for measuring the effectiveness of the tools.

The bill also requires the existing DYS working group on juvenile detention and alternatives to adopt a research-based detention screening instrument, develop a plan for training on the new instrument, and submit a report on the use of the new instrument.

The bill requires district attorney’s offices to use the risk screening tools and the results of the tools in determining a juvenile’s eligibility for diversion and need for services. It specifies grounds that may not be used to deny diversion and directs the division of criminal justice to collect data and report on juvenile diversion programs.

The bill restricts removing a juvenile from the custody of a parent, unless the detention screening is conducted and specified findings are made, and directs that unless physical restriction is required, custody of the juvenile is given to kin or another person. It limits which juveniles may be placed in detention. In releasing a juvenile from detention, the bill requires the juvenile court to use the detention screening instrument.

The bill requires the state court administrator to develop statewide standards for juvenile probation supervision and services and provide annual training on the standards.

The bill takes effect 7/1/19, except that changes to 19-2-507, 19-2-507.5, and 19-2-508 take effect 7/1/20.

SB19-136 Expand DYS Pilot Program

This bill expands the existing pilot program in DYS to “aid in the establishment of a division-wide therapeutic and rehabilitative culture” from one location to two and requires a second evaluation and report on the pilot program.

The bill takes effect 8/2/19

SB19-185 Protections for Minor Human Trafficking Victims

This bill, among other things, creates immunity for prostitution-related offenses by juveniles if probable cause exists to believe that the juvenile was a victim of either human trafficking of a minor for involuntary servitude or for sexual servitude; establishes an affirmative defense for all criminal violations, except class 1 felonies, if a juvenile proves that s/he was both a victim of human trafficking of a minor for involuntary servitude or sexual servitude, and forced or coerced into engaging in the criminal acts.

The bill was signed into law 5/6/19

SB19-210 Juvenile Detention Beds

For the 2019-20 and future state fiscal years, the bill lowers the cap on juvenile detention beds from 382 to 327.  DYS is directed to submit a report to the joint budget committee concerning statutory and rule changes and the financing necessary to create flexibility in the allocation of juvenile detention beds among judicial districts.

The bill was signed into law 4/16/19.