H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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Power Of Colorado Probation Officers Needs To Be Carefully Watched – Abuses Are Common

Last year a young woman in Colorado Springs was put on probation for a fairly routine drug case. Guy Cruz, an El Paso County Adult Probation officer, was assigned the case. Mr. Cruz saw this as an opportunity to exploit his authority and power as a probation office over the young woman in ways that may seem almost incomprehensible to strangers to the system.

Within a couple of months the probation officer began to use his power and influence as her probation officer- at first making sexual advances in the nature of harassment. At first, he insisted on contacting her multiple times each day. Later he learned of a technical violation of her probation which he then withheld from the Court informing her that she now “owed him” for not reporting the violation nof probation. It was the opportunity he had been seeking to assert complete power over her sexually.

Mr. Cruz – the probation officer began – then began “home visits” forcing her to have sex with him while her children were close by. The threats and the sexual relationship continued throughout the summer and escalated in frequency.

Finally, to compel an end to the relationship, she decided to film him “in the act”.. thus turning the tables on Mr Cruz. She later turned the video in to the probation department leading to the filing of criminal charges and also civil complaint for damages.

The criminal complaint charges Defendant Cruz in El Paso County District Court, with felony sexual assault and other related charges.

H. Michael’s Take

The inherently unequal relationship between a probation officer and the person he or she supervises cannot be overstated. Whistle blowing, as in this case, against the probation officer is difficult if not impossible because of the dual fears of the person being supervised that he or she will not be believed and or there will be punitive consequences to the act of reporting the abuse.

The unequal relationship between probation officers and their clients provides many opportunities that can and do lead to abuses hidden in the inner sanctums of the probation “experience.” These abuses must be exposed to the light of day through the use of formalized whistleblower procedures and the sound use of immunity for those who expose the perpetrators..

The inability of the probationer to complain without either being ignored or condemned by probation administrators as “not credible” must be examined and inroads made to provide these victims a method to report to higher authorties without consequent punishment to them in the completion of their sentences.