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    Will I Get Probation In My Colorado Criminal Case?


    Introduction – It is not normally understood that the probation department “works for” and is directly under the Judge’s authority.  That is, probation is under the Judicial Branch of government.  Therefore, as is natural, judges most often follow their recommendations.

    One needs to fully understand this relationship to property formulate a strategy for dealing with “probation.”

    Colorado Probation – Overview

    There are 22 judicial districts in the state and each judicial district operates a probation department. In addition to the supervision of offenders, the probation departments are also responsible for submitting pre-sentence investigation reports to the courts.

    Probation services are under the direction of the chief judge and chief probation officer in each judicial district.

    Certain non-violent offenders may be sentenced to probation by the court. The level of community supervision is determined according to the results of a risk assessment, a treatment assessment, and statutory and court-ordered conditions of probation.

    • while only certain offenders are eligible for a sentence to probation, the sentencing court may waive these eligibility restrictions upon recommendation of a district attorney; in addition, the court may sentence an offender to probation and jail;

    • specialized probation programs exist to assist and supervise those offenders needing a higher level of supervision or specialized services while on probation;

    Colorado’s Judicial Districts

    The 63 counties in Colorado are apportioned into 22 judicial districts. Each judicial district has a probation department which provides probation services.

    Judicial Districts and Corresponding Counties

    District 1  Gilpin, Jefferson

    District 2  Denver

    District 3  Huerfano, Las Animas

    District 4  El Paso, Teller

    District 5  Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake, Summit

    District 6  Archuleta, La Plata, San Juan

    District 7  Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel

    District 8  Jackson, Larimer

    District 9  Garfield, Pitkin, Rio Blanco

    District 10  Pueblo

    District 11  Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Park

    District 12  Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, Saguache

    District 13  Kit Carson, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Yuma

    District 14  Grand, Moffat, Routt

    District 15  Baca, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Prowers

    District 16  Bent, Crowley, Otero

    District 17  Adams, Broomfield

    District 18  Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, Lincoln

    District 19  Weld

    District 20  Boulder

    District 21  Mesa

    District 22  Dolores, Montezuma

    Here are links to the Colorado Judicial Districts

    1st Judicial District Counties: Gilpin, Jefferson 2nd Judicial District Counties: Denver 3rd Judicial District Counties: Huerfano, Las Animas 4th Judicial District Counties: El Paso, Teller 5th Judicial District Counties: Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake, Summit 6th Judicial District Counties: Archuleta, La Plata, San Juan 7th Judicial District Counties: Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel 8th Judicial District Counties: Jackson, Larimer 9th Judicial District Counties: Garfield, Pitkin, Rio Blanco 10th Judicial District Counties: Pueblo 11th Judicial District Counties: Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Park

    12th Judicial District Counties: Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, Saguache 13th Judicial District Counties: Kit Carson, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Yuma 14th Judicial District Counties: Grand, Moffat, Routt 15th Judicial District Counties: Baca, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Prowers 16th Judicial District Counties: Bent, Crowley, Otero 17th Judicial District Counties: Adams, Broomfield 18th Judicial District Counties: Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, Lincoln ld Counties: Weld 20th Judicial District Counties: Boulder 21st Judicial District Counties: Mesa 22nd Judicial District Counties: Dolores, Montezuma

    Probation Eligibility In Colorado

    All offenders are eligible to apply to the court to receive a sentence to probation, with the following exceptions:

    • persons convicted of a class 1 felony;

    • persons convicted of a class 2 petty offense;

    • persons who have been twice previously convicted of a felony under Colorado law or any state or federal law. This threshold applies to convictions prior to the conviction for which the offender is applying for probation; and

    • persons who have been convicted of one or more felonies in this state, any other state, or the United States within ten years of a prior class 1, class 2, or class 3 felony conviction.

    The sentencing court may waive the restrictions on probation eligibility upon recommendation of the district attorney. The district attorney must show to the court that the defendant is a non-violent offender, as defined in Section 16-11-101 (1) (b.5) (II) (B), C.R.S. The district attorney must also demonstrate that any prior felony convictions were not for:

    • crimes of violence, as defined in Section 16-11-309 (2), C.R.S.;

    • manslaughter, as defined in Section 18-3-104, C.R.S.;

    • second degree burglary, as defined in Section 18-4-203, C.R.S.;

    • theft if the object of value is more than $500, as defined in Section 18-4-401 (2) (c), (2) (d), or (5), C.R.S.;

    • a felony offense committed against a child, as defined in Articles 3, 6 and 7 of Title 18; or

    • crimes committed in other states, that if committed in this state would be a crime of violence, manslaughter, second degree burglary, robbery, theft of property worth $500 or more, theft from a person by means other than the use of force, threat, or intimidation, or a felony offense committed against a child.

    In addition to probation, the sentencing court has the power to commit the defendant to any jail operated by a county or city and county where the offense was committed. The length of the jail term may be for a set time, or for intervals, and is at the discretion of the court.

    The aggregate length of any jail commitment, continuous or at intervals, is not to exceed 90 days for a felony, 60 days for a misdemeanor, or 10 days for a petty offense. Offenders sentenced to a work release program are not subject to these time lines.


    Probation Guidelines in Colorado

    Section 16-11-204, C.R.S., states that the conditions of probation shall be as the court, in its discretion, deems reasonably necessary to ensure that the defendant will lead a law-abiding life. Section 16-11-203, C.R.S., stipulates that the court may sentence an offender to probation, unless due to the nature and circumstances of the offense and due to the history and character of the defendant, the court determines that a sentence to the DOC is more appropriate. The statutes outline the factors that favor a prison sentence:

    • there is undue risk that during the probation period the defendant will commit another crime;

    • the defendant is in need of correctional treatment that is most effectively provided by imprisonment;

    • a sentence to probation would unduly depreciate the seriousness of the defendant’s crime or undermine respect for the law;

    • the defendant’s past criminal record indicates that probation would fail to accomplish its intended purposes; or

    • the crime, the facts surrounding it, or the defendant’s history and character when considered in relation to statewide sentencing practices relating to persons in circumstances substantially similar to those of the defendant, do not justify the granting of probation.

    When considering the factors above, the statutes further guide the sentencing court to weigh the following in determining whether to grant probation:

    • whether the criminal conduct caused or threatened serious harm to another person or property;

    • whether the offender planned or expected that his/her conduct would cause or threaten serious harm to another person or property;

    • whether the defendant acted under strong provocation;

    • whether the defendant’s conduct was justified by substantial grounds, although they were not sufficient for a legal defense;

    • whether the victim induced or facilitated the act committed;

    • whether the defendant has a prior criminal history or has been law-abiding for a substantial period of time prior to the offense;

    • whether the defendant will or has made restitution to the victim;

    • whether the defendant’s conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur;

    • whether the defendant’s character, history, and attitudes indicate he/she is unlikely to reoffend;

    • whether the defendant is likely to respond favorably to probationary treatment;

    • whether imprisonment would entail undue hardship to the defendant or the defendant’s dependents;

    • whether the defendant is elderly or in poor health;

    • whether the defendant abused a position of public trust or responsibility; or

    • whether the defendant cooperated with law enforcement authorities in bringing other offenders to justice.

    Once placed on probation, the court may, as a condition of probation, require that the defendant:

    • work faithfully at suitable employment or pursue a course of study or vocational training to equip the defendant for suitable employment;

    • undergo available medical or psychiatric treatment;

    • attend or reside in a facility established for the instruction, recreation, or residence of persons on probation;

    • support the defendant’s dependents and meet other family responsibilities, including a payment plan for child support;

    • pay reasonable costs of court proceedings or costs of probation supervision;

    • pay any fines or fees imposed by the court;

    • repay all or part of any reward paid by a crime stopper organization;

    • refrain from possessing a firearm, destructive device, or any other dangerous weapon;

    • refrain from excessive use of alcohol or any unlawful use of a controlled substance;

    • report to a probation officer at reasonable times, as directed by the court;

    • remain within the jurisdiction of the court, unless granted permission to leave;

    • answer all reasonable inquiries by the probation officer and justify to the officer any change of address or employment;

    • be subject to home detention;

    • be restrained from contact with the victim or victim’s family members for crimes involving domestic violence; and

    • satisfy any other conditions reasonably related to the defendant’s rehabilitation.

    In addition, offenders convicted of an offense involving unlawful sexual behavior or for which the factual basis involved an offense involving unlawful sexual behavior must, as a condition of probation, submit to and pay for a chemical blood test to determine the genetic markers.

    Colorado Probation FAQs

    Q:Are all adults and juveniles who are on Probation required to be supervised by the Probation Department?

    No, some adults may be sentenced to unsupervised probation. Lower risk adult offenders on supervised probation may be supervised by a private company under contract with the Probation Department. Some juveniles may be placed on probation and supervised by an agency other than the Probation Department such as the Department of Human Services.

    Q:Are there sex offenders who are on Probation?

    Yes, some sex offenders are on probation. Most adults are ordered to participate in the Sex Offender Intensive Supervision Program which holds them to very strict standards of conduct. Juveniles are assigned to a juvenile probation officer who only supervises sex offenders. Colorado has strict standards for supervision of sex offenders that are established by the Sex Offender Management Board.

    Q:Can a Probation Officer arrest anyone?

    Probation Officers can take individuals who are on probation into custody. They cannot arrest people who are not on probation.

    Q:Can Probation be transferred to another part of Colorado?

    Yes. There are 22 Judicial Districts in Colorado, each with a Probation Department. Agreements exist with all the departments so that an individual who lives in one area but is convicted of a crime in another can see a Probation Officer close to home. There are certain criteria that must be met in order for a person to transfer to another district and any person desiring such a transfer must discuss this with their current Probation Officer. Juveniles on probation may have their case transferred to their home Judicial District by the Court through the statutory change of venue process.

    Q:Can Probation be transferred to another state?

    Yes. Colorado participates in the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision and the Interstate Compact for Juveniles which govern the movement of offenders between states. There are very specific requirements that must be met before anyone convicted of a felony, certain misdemeanors or adjudicated a delinquent will be allowed to move from the state. Generally, we cannot allow someone on Probation to move to another state without the consent of the other state. Talk to your Probation Officer about the requirements and the process. Your Probation Officer must approve of the move and you must apply to the other state through our office and be accepted by them prior to moving.

    Q:How can I transfer my Probation from another state to Colorado?

    Since Colorado participates in the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision and the Interstate Compact for Juveniles which govern the movement of offenders between states it may be possible to transfer probation to Colorado. Generally, you must have family or employment to be seriously considered. Talk to your Probation Officer about the requirements and the process. You must apply through the Adult or Juvenile Compact office of the state you are in and be accepted by Colorado prior to moving.

    Q:How do I find out if someone is on Probation?

    Information about an adult’s sentence is considered public information and is available from the District Court Clerk’s office. Juvenile information is confidential.

    Q:How do I pay supervision fees and other costs I am supposed to pay?

    Adults who are on supervised probation are required by law to pay a $50 per month supervision fee. Other fines and fees plus restitution may be ordered as well. If you are unable to pay immediately, your Probation Officer will refer you to the Collections Office to set up a payment schedule that fits with your personal budget. If you are a lower risk case and supervised by the private provider who contracts with the Probation Department, your supervision fee will be paid to the provider instead of the Collection Office of the Court.

    Q:How does someone get on Probation?

    A sentence to probation is ordered by the Court after an adult defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty of a criminal offense. A juvenile may be sentenced to probation if adjudicated a delinquent by the Court because of a criminal act. The Probation Department also supervises offenders who reach an agreement for a deferred sentence or adjudication with the District Attorney’s office.

    Q:Is Probation the same as Community Corrections?

    No. Community Corrections is another sentencing option available to the Judge for adults. However, technically offenders sentenced to Community Corrections are under the jurisdiction of the Probation Department and there are times when a person on probation is placed in the residential program at Community Corrections as a condition of probation. The Community Corrections facility also houses offenders who are coming to the end of their prison sentence and are transitioning back to living in the community.

    Q:Is Probation the same as Parole?

    No. Probation is a sentencing option imposed instead of a sentence to the Colorado Department of Corrections for adults or commitment to the Division of Youth Corrections for juveniles. Parole is a conditional release from the secure custody provided by either of these state departments. Supervision requirements may be similar and there are rare occasions when someone is on parole and probation at the same time.

    Q:What are the “Terms and Conditions” of Probation?

    The Terms and Conditions of probation are the requirements set by the Court as part of the probation sentence. Some conditions, like the necessity to remain law abiding, are required by law and others may be more directly related to the specific individual, like attending mental health counseling or paying restitution.

    Q:What does the Probation Department do for victims of crime?

    The Probation Department provides services to victims consistent with the Victim Rights Amendment through Victim’s Assistance Coordinators. Individual Probation Officers are responsible for enforcing restitution orders and other conditions of probation.

    Q:What happens after I have been put on Probation by the Judge?

    Unless the Court specifically places an individual on unsupervised probation, you should immediately report to the Probation Office. At that time you will be given instructions about who your Probation Officer is and when to return. If a Presentence Report was not completed as part of your sentencing process, you will be required to fill out a number of forms so that your Probation Officer has complete information about you. During the time you are on probation you will work with your Probation Officer to complete the terms and conditions of probation set by the Court. If you are a juvenile, your probation may be supervised by an agency other than the Probation Department if so ordered by the Court.

    Q:What happens if I don’t do what I am supposed to do while on Probation?

    The Court will set the conditions of your probation and those will be reviewed with you by your Probation Officer. Violation of any condition may lead to the filing of a complaint with the Court and a hearing where the Court will determine if you violated your probation and if your probation will be revoked. If probation is revoked, you may be re-sentenced to probation or sentenced to Community Corrections, jail or prison if you are an adult or committed to the Division of Youth Corrections if you are a juvenile.

    Q:What is “Restorative Justice”?

    Restorative Justice or Restorative Community Justice is a philosophy or way of delivering justice that balances the needs of the victim, community and offender in determining the appropriate response to a criminal offense. In general, people who practice restorative justice believe that crime damages individual and community relationships and that safety and the restoration of those relationships through either voluntary or mandated actions of the offender should be the primary goal of the criminal justice system.

    Q:What is a Pre-sentence Report?

    A presentence report is a document prepared by the Probation Department about a specific defendant. The report provides the Judge with information about the offense, victim impact and the defendant to help with the sentencing decision. Presentence reports are prepared for juveniles and adults.

    Q:What is Alcohol Probation?

    Alcohol Probation is a type of probation typically ordered in sentences for drinking and driving offenses. The Alcohol Drug Driving Safety Unit (ADDS Unit) is the part of the Probation Department that oversees these probationers. An alcohol evaluation is completed with the defendant and a level of alcohol classes is determined. The ADDS Unit monitors the completions of the alcohol classes, community service, Victim Impact Panel, and any other conditions of the sentence. The probationer does not necessarily have face to face contact with the probation officer after the initial meeting and is not charged a monthly supervision fee.

    Q:What is Drug Court?

    Drug Court is a special court designed to deal with adult and juvenile defendants whose criminal behavior is directly related to their substance abuse. Participants must be referred for screening by the District Attorney, accepted into the program by the Drug Court Team, and agree to participate. Participants appear in Court weekly and are involved in numerous other activities intended to promote substance free living.

    Q:What is the AIIM Program?

    The AIIM (Alternatives to Incarceration for Individuals with Mental Health Needs) Program is a joint venture between Community Corrections, Mental Health, the Sheriff’s Department and the Probation Department. Intensive supervision and treatment is provided to adults whose criminal conduct is directly linked to their mental health problems. All AIIM participants are on probation.

    Q:What kinds of offenders are on Probation?

    Adult and juvenile felony and misdemeanor offenders can be placed on probation. On rare occasions a youth adjudicated for a petty offense may be on probation. A risk assessment is conducted on each probationer to determine the level of supervision necessary to reduce the potential to re-offend. Higher risk offenders are often sentenced to intensive supervision rather than regular probation. Defendants charged with drug related offenses may have their cases assigned to Adult or Juvenile Drug Court, requiring intensive supervision directed to supporting sustained sobriety.

    Understanding Violating of Probation In Colorado

    Violations of probation are “different.”  VOP cases can be particularly difficult and confusing to family members due to their unique nature. Although good representation is essential to safeguard a probation violater’s rights and freedoms, we hope the following material can help you understand the process as you seek legal counsel.

    A violation of probation occurs when a person that has been previously placed on probation by either a federal, state, or county court has violated the terms of probation.  Violations are generally lumped into two categories: new law offenses and technical violations. A new law offense violation occurs when a person on probation is arrested or charged with a new criminal offense. A technical violation occurs when a person violates another requirement of probation. Examples of technical violations include the following: failure to complete community service, failing a urine test, failing to pay court costs, etc.

    A VOP case begins either when a person is arrested for a new crime by a police officer, or when a probation officer goes to the sentencing judge and presents a warrant for the probationer’s arrest.

    VOP cases are unique in that they are not new criminal offenses, but rather a continuation of the original criminal case. At sentencing on a violation of probation the court can sentence the probationer to any sentence that was legal at the time of the original sentencing.

    Time spent on probation does not get credited against an incarceration sentence at VOP sentencing. In addition, a probation is not entitled to a jury trial for a VOP and the standard of proof is much lower for the state in proving a VOP. VOP’s are also unique and difficult for probationers because the violater is not entitled to a bond on a VOP case. The decision to grant a bond is completely discretionary and the court is not required to allow a probation violater to bond out of jail pending hearing.

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    H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
    Attorney and Counselor at Law
    The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
    A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
    Colorado Criminal Law For Over 40 Years.
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