Friday, August 26, 2022

Probation violation - Now what?

Most criminal cases resolve short of trial, many with a plea agreement including probation.  Even trial convictions can include a probation sentence.  Probation means - if you stay out of trouble and timely comply with its terms and conditions - avoiding worse consequences like jail or prison.  So, what happens if you mess up and are accused (and possibly arrested and jailed) of violating probation?

First, you'll get written notice of the alleged violation(s).  This is usually in the form of a complaint to revoke probation filed with the court overseeing the case, and a summons requiring you to appear in court to answer the allegations made by the probation department and prosecutor's office.

Second, you're entitled to a hearing - evidence and all - but typically not a jury, and under a lessor preponderance of evidence versus reasonable doubt standard.  An exception is if the alleged violation is a new offense, which triggers additional due process.  In Colorado - a more or less typical state when it comes to probation - details of the process can be found at CRS 16-11-206 and Criminal Procedure Rule 32.  Federal probation is an entirely different, and rare, creature.

Third, if revoked, you can be re-sentenced per the charge or charges you pled to, including jail or prison, fines etc. 

Meantime the prosecution likely will try to negotiate with you (your lawyer if you have one) a resolution short of proceeding with a hearing.  This mainly is because, if they or the judge wanted you in jail or prison in the first place, you'd probably already be there.  Instead, per a new agreement the terms and conditions and length of probation may be "continued" or extended, additional classes or treatment required, jail alternatives like day reporting, work release or in-home detention imposed, etc.  In other words, you usually get at least a second chance on probation, subject as always to judge approval.

One of the worst things about being a judge must be listening to people explain or excuse or try to justify why they violated probation (which sentence often really is a gift in the first place).  Judges do this a lot (get to court an hour or so early and see for yourself).  

Especially in cases where the alleged violation is missing appointments, failing to complete classes or treatment in time, not paying what is required, and the like, it may be better to admit, apologize and get on with it.  Cases involving "hot UAs," protection order violations, or new offenses, may justify increased push back, depending on your options.

It goes without saying that probation should not be taken lightly, and neither should revocation proceedings.  Consult an experienced lawyer first.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Agistor Liens - securing the cost of caring for livestock

  Colorado enables a person boarding horses or other livestock belonging to another person to file a lien for the cost of that care.  It is known as an “agistor lien,” detailed at CRS 38-20-201-120 (“Agistor’s Lien Act”).  An “agistor” is "any rancher, farmer, feeder, herder of cattle, livery stable keeper, veterinarian, or other person to whom livestock are entrusted by the owner for feeding, herding, pasturing, keeping, ranching, or boarding, or providing medical care."  CRS 38-30-202(3).

  According to the statute (at subsection -203):

(1) An agistor shall have a lien upon the livestock entrusted to its care for any amount that may be due for feeding, herding, pasturing, keeping, ranching, or boarding such livestock, for medical care provided to such livestock, and for all costs incurred in enforcing such lien, including attorney fees. The provisions of this section shall not apply to stolen livestock.

(2) An agistor's lien shall be effective for the entire period during which the livestock are held by the agistor, and if the livestock referenced in subsection (1) of this section are sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of from the premises of the lienor by anyone other than the lienor acting on his or her own behalf or the lienor's agent, the lien created by this section shall continue and shall attach to the proceeds received or receivable from such disposition. To the extent an agistor's lien remains effective, such lien shall be superior to all other liens.

  As with most liens, agistor liens are more complicated than they sound, limited in their applicability and effect, and frustrating to enforce.  For example, for the lien to apply, the animal must belong to a person other than the agistor, there must be an underlying agreement to pay for the care, the person asserting the lien must have possession of the animal, and other factors.  If filing the lien does not result in payment within a certain time, a court may order the sale of the animal to satisfy the lien amount.  Other timing issues and limitations apply.

  If there is a dispute over who actually owns the animal, a more general lawsuit likely will be required to determine ownership and enforce available remedies.  Contact Sanderson Law, P.C., for help.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Accused college sex offenders deserve due process.

In a recent Colorado appellate decision, the court recognized that colleges ("private educational institutions") owe to their students "a duty of care in the course of [their] investigations and adjudications of allegations of non-consensual sexual contact...."  

This is significant because it means colleges that expel students accused of sex offenses on the weakest of allegations and evidence can be sued for damages.  As the court put it, "[a] mere allegation of sexual misconduct can be devastating to the accused. A determination that a person engaged in non-consensual sexual contact can potentially destroy the accused’s educational, employment, and other future prospects."

The court explained that "[a] student who is dismissed after the culmination of a partial or unfair investigation will likely suffer a diminished earning capacity and stigma from the expulsion, and may be prevented from engaging in their chosen profession."

The case - Doe v. University of Denver, 2022COA57, announced 5/26/22 - is a welcome affirmation of due process of law.