Colorado Courts Reassert Awesome Power Of Parole Board In Sex Offender Parole Revocation Matters
by Colorado Sex Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyer – H. Michael Steinberg
In the case directly addressing Parole Revocations for Colorado Sex Offenders – the Colorado Court of Appeals distinguished once again sex offender cases from all other parole revocation cases.
On August 1, 2013 – in the case of People v. Back – Jason Back appealed the denial of his Colorado Criminal Rule of Procedure 35 C motion which he filed to challenge the Colorado parole board’s decision to revoke his parole and send him back to prison for the rest of his life.
The two laws that are addressed in the Back decision are sections 17-2-103(11)(b) and 17-22.5-403(8)(b), of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.)
Simply put – for technical violations of Colorado Parole ( that is – no new crimes have been committed while on parole) under section 17-2-103(11)(b)(IV), C.R.S. (which applies to parole revocations),Back argued that the parole board was only authorized send him back to prison for a maximum of 180 days… not life in prison.
The Court decided that – section 17-22.5-403(8)(b) “trumps” the general statute in cases that fall within the Colorado Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act (SOLSA).
The Facts Of Back
Back had been on lifetime probation after pleading guilty to sexual assault on a child, a class four felony. He violated his probation and was sentenced to prison for 10 years to life which had a so called “tail” of parole that added – should he ever parole – of 10 years to life.
Eventually – after working very hard – Back was one of the very few Colorado Sex Offender inmates to make parole early and he was released on parole. While on parole – the sex offender treatment program he was asigned to – terminated him for “noncompliance.” Thereafter the Colorado Parole Board decided that they would return Back to prison for life for the technical violation of failure in a sex offender treatment program.
How To Get There
He appealed that decision – after the Colorado Parole Board a person’s parole, that decision can be appealed under the Colorado Parole Board’s own appellate body under Section 17-2-103(2)(b), C.R.S. 2012. If you lose there – THEN that order can be appealed again to the district court and then the Colorado Court’s of Appeal.
The Defendant filed a Crim. P. 35(c) motion and in his appeal he asserted that the parole board had to treat him like all other parolees in this situation – and return him to prison for only 6 months – 180 days.
Finding – after much analysis that the two laws directly CONFLICT – decision came down to this – the “general” parole revocation law – section 17-2- 103(11)(b)(IV) does not apply to Colorado Sex Offender Parole (the parole board to revoke his parole for a maximum of 180 days), while the more “specific” law 17-22.5-403(8)(b) does.
Here is the relevant law:
Upon a determination in a parole revocation proceeding that the sex offender has violated the conditions of parole, the state board of parole shall continue the parole in effect, modify the conditions of parole . . ., or revoke the parole and order the return of the sex offender to a place of confinement designated by the executive director for any period of time up to the remainder of the sex offender’s natural life.
H. Michael’s Take
No surprise here – the Colorado Court of Appeals decision to treat Colorado Sex Offenders differently under SOLSA is consistent with the harsh tone of the whole statutory scheme. The irony in the Back case – is that Back did such a great job in prison after he was returned… the “back” story (forgive me) was that – while the appeal was pending – he was re- granted discretionary parole under the provisions just discussed.
The good news in this scenario is – in my opinion – there has been a palpable “loosening” of the hysteria surrounding these cases that has given some hope to the hundreds of Colorado sex offenders serving life sentences and trying to make parole – as did Mr. Back – TWICE.