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Changes to Colorado Criminal Law in the 2021 Legislative Session

The Governor signed a number of bills into law in July that will have a major impact on the criminal justice system. Here’s a very brief summary of some of the important changes within those bills, although this is not an exhaustive list of all the measures created by this legislation:

- House Bill 1315 eliminates the requirement to pay certain court fees and fines for juvenile offenders and their families. This measure vacates a backlog of $10.4 million in unpaid fees.

- House Bill 1314 repeals the Colorado Department of Revenue’s ability to suspend or deny driver’s licenses based on unpaid court costs and municipal violations.

- House Bill 1280 requires that courts hold a bond hearing for people who have been jailed within 48 hours of their arrest. Defendants who have posted bond must be released within 6 hours.

- Senate Bill 271 changes the maximum sentence for a Class 1 misdemeanor to 364 days in jail and a fine of $1,000 (previously 18 months/$5,000). Class 2 misdemeanors now have a penalty of 12 days in jail and a fine of up to $750, (previously 364 days/$1,000). Class 3 misdemeanors are eliminated.

- House Bill 1214 automatically seals people’s arrest record if no charges are filed within a year of their arrest. It creates a process to automatically seal a drug conviction for a petty offense or misdemeanor if seven years have passed, or a felony if ten years have passed, as long as the conviction is otherwise eligible under current law.

- Senate Bill 71 prohibits courts from releasing a juvenile on a bond with monetary or property conditions.

- House Bill 1250 requires law enforcement agencies to release body camera footage within 21 days in cases where someone has complained about officer misconduct.

- House Bill 1251 limits when law enforcement can use of the the powerful sedative ketamine outside of hospital settings for people experiencing “excited delirium," a direct response to the murder of Elijah McClain by Aurora police officers.

Stay tuned for more information about these measures – especially the changes to Colorado’s record sealing system!

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