Colorado Makes It More Difficult to Charge Juveniles as Adults


Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed a bill that will dramatically curb prosecutors’ ability to charge juveniles as adults through the state’s longstanding “direct file” system, reports the Denver Post. The bill passed the legislature by wide margins and with bipartisan support but was bitterly opposed by prosecutors and other law enforcement officials. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said he struggled with whether to sign the bill but decided the wave of bipartisan support among lawmakers was hard to ignore. Kim Dvorchak of the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition said the law had “restored due process for youth to have judicial review before being tried as an adult.”

Opponents, such as Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, said Hickenlooper’s signature was the wrong decision. “Gov. Roy Romer and state lawmakers established Colorado’s direct-file system in the early 1990s in response to an alarming and continuous increase in violent crime committed by juveniles,” Suthers said. “Since then, prosecutors across the state have judiciously used the system to address the most serious, violent juvenile offenders who posed serious risks to the public safety. This new law not only ignores the lessons of history, but also the benefits of the direct-file system, including Colorado’s Youthful Offender System, which has rehabilitated numerous juvenile offenders.”

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