CO Prosecutors Fight Reform Amid Felony Rise

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Felony filings across Colorado increased by nearly 50 percent in the past five years, prompting concerns that recent criminal justice reforms are letting dangerous individuals roam the streets, the Denver Post reports. Prosecutors and state officials are trying to identify the causes for the swifter pace of felony filings. A surge in drug arrests may be partly responsible. The Colorado District Attorneys’ Council asked Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office for help in analyzing crime trends. The council has asked district attorneys around the state for more information on felony filings as it prepares to fight a push for sentencing reforms in the next legislative session. Some key lawmakers want to overhaul sex offender and habitual offender statutes to give judges more flexibility in sentencing.

Prosecutors cite the rise in felony filings as cause for caution. Several fear the legislature sent the wrong signal in 2013 when it created more leniency in drug sentencing. Under that change, defendants convicted of lower-level felony drug possession can have their convictions changed to misdemeanors after completing probation. The law restricted the ability of judges to sentence offenders convicted of certain drug crimes to prison. District attorneys also blame the rising felony filings on state initiatives to keep more offenders out on parole and probation and under pretrial supervision instead of behind bars. Others say the 2012 vote to legalize recreational marijuana has enticed career criminals to move to Colorado. “There has been a lot of criminal justice reform in the last 10 years in Colorado,” said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, who said his office is overloaded with criminal cases. “Sometimes those pushes go too far and the pendulum needs to swing a little bit back in the other direction. There was needed criminal justice reform, but not everything has to always be about diverting people away from prison.”

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