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Colorado Springs Legal Issues Blog

FBI terrorist watchlist ruled unconstitutional by federal judge

Lawyers in Colorado and around the country have been paying close attention to a lawsuit brought by a group of Muslim-Americans against the federal government. The plaintiffs say that they have faced difficulties when traveling and have even been placed in handcuffs because their names have been added to the government's terrorist watch list, and a federal judge ruled on Sept. 4 that they had been denied rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

The ruling provides summary judgement to about two dozen plaintiffs who are backed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The judge will study legal briefs before determining what remedies are appropriate. The case was argued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The ruling is likely to lead to greater scrutiny of how the Federal Bureau of Investigation curates and maintains the Terrorist Screening Database.

3 defense strategies in domestic violence cases

Facing charges of domestic violence can seem daunting, especially if you do not believe you should. In Colorado, there is a tendency for the police to believe one side of the story over the other and let the court sort out the rest.

It is wise to understand that just because you face these charges, it does not mean you will face conviction. Several defense strategies can turn the tide in a domestic violence case. Explore three of these to see if any apply to your situation.

CDOT offering breathalyzers at 50% off to reduce DUIs

In an effort to reduce alcohol-related accidents over the Labor Day holiday weekend, Colorado authorities are launching an anti-drunk-driving campaign called The Heat Is On. As part of the campaign, the Colorado Department of Transportation is offering BACtrack breathalyzers to the public at a 50% discount. Drivers can use the portable devices to measure their blood alcohol content levels before they get behind the wheel of a car.

During the campaign, The Colorado State Patrol and 85 local law enforcement agencies will target individuals who they suspect are driving while drunk. Nearly 940 impaired drivers were arrested during the 2018 initiative. The effort is designed to cut down on injuries and deaths caused by drunk driving crashes in the weeks leading up to Labor Day. In 2018, 209 people lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes on Colorado roads. Of those deaths, 44 occurred in August and September.

When is theft a felony?

An arrest and criminal charges are overwhelming life experiences. They can cause fear, anxiety, regret and even confusion. The law is hard to comprehend, making it also difficult to understand charges and possible penalties and to come up with an appropriate defense.

For those facing accusations of theft, it can be helpful to know how the state classifies this crime, as there is a big difference between misdemeanors and felonies.

Police tunnel vision can lead to wrongful convictions

When a crime attracts a significant amount of media attention in Colorado and around the country, the detectives assigned to investigate it are often put under great pressure to make a quick arrest. Two criminologists from Texas State University say that this desire to close cases quickly can lead to investigators becoming fixated on a prime suspect to the point where they coerce confessions and ignore exculpatory evidence. They arrived at this conclusion after analyzing the case files of 50 innocent individuals who were convicted of serious crimes.

The most worrying part of the study is the number of times innocent defendants were wrongly convicted because of a false confession. Juries tend to find confessions extremely persuasive because they assume that no rational person would confess to a serious crime like murder unless they were guilty. The study is not the only data that suggests coercion is extremely common in serious crime investigations. The Innocence Project says that about a third of the individuals they have exonerated were sent to prison because they confessed.

When a DUI becomes a felony

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol may lead to serious consequences. In Colorado, the courts do not look kindly upon offenders who continue to drive while impaired.

Colorado courts give drivers the benefit of the doubt on their first DUI charge and offer remediation, fines and some measure of brevity. However, when that same driver continues to drink and drive, the ramifications worsen. At what point does a DUI become a felony in Colorado, and what does it mean for anyone convicted?

Traffic stops and marijuana intoxication

In Colorado and other states where medicinal or recreational marijuana has been legalized, police officers are changing the way they conduct traffic stops where they suspect impaired driving. They plan to perform a variety of tests that help prove a driver is intoxicated with THC since it is tough to prove with just a blood test. They may record information related to driving behavior, smell, dilated pupils, and the presence of marijuana paraphernalia.

Before the legalization of pot in some states, a traffic stop involved a sobriety test and perhaps a breathalyzer. If marijuana was discovered, an officer would add a possession charge. Now that cannabis is legal, they will need to use more creative ways to discover if that marijuana has actually been ingested by the driver. That's why many states are training officers to recognize the signs of cannabis use.

Perceived threats could lead to a stalking charge

The idea of learning all about someone who is the object of a crush can seem harmless. In fact, television shows and movies portray this as romantic more often than not. Having someone find out personal details may feel unnerving or uncomfortable for some people, though, particularly if that person is a recent acquaintance. 

It is a good idea to understand exactly what behaviors the Colorado statute defines as stalking.

Legal groups challenging policies that jail poor over fines

Many cities in Colorado and other states rely on court fines and fees to balance their departmental budgets. Some defendants who are unable to pay their fines are jailed or placed on probation until they pay off the debt. This sometimes occurs even if the individual hasn't been convicted of a crime. In response, an increasing number of legal organizations are fighting to raise awareness about these practices and bring them to an end.

Back in 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to imprison people who lack the funds to pay court fines and fees. However, that hasn't stopped many cities and counties, underfunded due to their reluctance to raise taxes, from using their court systems as a revenue-generating arm. Further, when people can't pay, some counties pass the debts to for-profit debt collection companies, which add up to 30% in fees to the unpaid balance and threaten to have debtors arrested. Some of those who are jailed are forced to pay for their incarceration, creating a mountain of debt that is nearly impossible to pay off. It also causes many people to lose their jobs, lose custody of their children and get divorced.

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