Illogical laws are everywhere in our statutes in Denver, Arapahoe, and Jefferson County. It's common sense to believe we shouldn't send someone to jail or prison based simply on emotion alone. Yet, our legislature has passed a law which is so vague it makes me worry common sense is gone forever. This legislation relates to crimes against At Risk Adult / At Risk Juveniles, found under statute 18-6.5-103. This irresponsible lawmaking is the result of pressure from special interest groups, and is an embarrassment to justice. Let's take a look at why.
Definitions for At Risk Adult in Colorado
An “at risk adult” is defined as someone who is 70 years old or older (“at risk elders” are also defined under the law, but are almost identical to the at-risk adult label), or someone who is 18 and older, but also possesses one of the disabilities listed below. An “at risk juvenile” is defined as a child under the age of 18, with one of the following disabilities:
- Mentally / Intellectually Disabled
- Unable to Breath without Mechanical Assistance
- Unable to Walk
- Missing a Hand or Foot
Why At Risk Laws are Illogical
Crimes against At Risk individuals are based on the definition of “disability.” Under the law, this means a person is unequipped or unable to protect themselves, mentally or physically. While protecting the disabled and people who are unable to protect themselves is a worthy, virtuous cause, I take issue with it when a person's disability has nothing to do with the crime committed against them. In order to understand just what I mean, let's take a look at a possible scenario:
Eric met Hilary while dancing in a bar in LoDo in Denver one night. They seemed to hit it off, so Eric bought Hilary two or three drinks through the course of the evening. Then, they hit the dance floor. It was all a blur to Eric, but when he recalls the evening, he vaguely remembers making out with her and touching her clothed breast. He didn't think much of it, because she had obviously been a willing participant. Unfortunately, Hilary regretted her decision to make out with Eric the next day – she has a boyfriend, and to cover up her mistake, tells him that Eric forced the contact. So, Eric is charged with Unlawful Sexual Contact. But, to make matters worse, Hilary is considered to be an At Risk Adult under Colorado law, because she has a prosthetic leg (Eric didn't even notice in the dark bar). Because of this, the charges are aggravated.
In this example, Eric's actions weren't related at all to the fact that Hilary is At Risk. In fact, he didn't even know she had a prosthetic leg. Yet, he is facing harsher charges than if Hilary's leg had not been a prosthetic. This doesn't make any sense. Usually, Unlawful Sexual Contact is charged as a misdemeanor sex offense, but when it is committed against an At Risk individual, it is elevated to a class 6 felony. Eric is now facing a felony conviction for a crime against someone he didn't even know was disabled.
We Need to Make this Law Logical
This law obviously ignores common sense. But, we absolutely need to protect disabled persons under the law. So, how can we make this law more logical? My suggestion would be to condition application of the At Risk laws to the commission of the crime. In other words, if the person didn't even know a person was considered to be At Risk, and the completion of the crime depended nothing on this disability, then they shouldn't be charged more harshly. A phrase like the following could be added to the At Risk Adult / At Risk Juvenile law:
The At Risk Adult / Juvenile provision shall only be charged if during, or prior to the commission of the underlying crime, the defendant knew or should have known the victim was considered to be at-risk or disabled under the law.
Defining this law more clearly would deter people from committing crimes against At Risk Adults / Juveniles, and keep innocent people from being charged unfairly. If you've been charged under the At Risk law, contact the best criminal defense lawyers in Adams, Douglas, or El Paso County to fight on your behalf in the courtroom.Request a Free Consultation
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