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Juveniles Prosecuted as Adults

Direct Filings and Transfers

Colorado law allows the prosecution to charge a juvenile as an adult in two situations. First, in certain circumstances, charges can be filed directly despite the fact the offender is less than eighteen years of age. “Direct file” means adult charges may be filed directly in the district court. Second, in certain other situations, charges may be filed in juvenile court but are then transferred to the district court where the offender is treated as an adult. Each of these routes leads to different sentencing options should the offender be convicted.

Regarding direct filings, the sentencing court may impose an adult sentence, a sentence to the youthful offender system (where allowed) or a juvenile sentence.140 This latter option is available only if the offender is less than sixteen years of age and is not convicted of a class one or class two felony or a crime of violence pursuant to CRS § 16-11-309. The option to sentence as a juvenile also is available if the offender is fourteen years old or older and is a habitual juvenile offender. If the juvenile offender is sentenced as a juvenile by the adult court, the mandatory, repeat, violent and aggravated juvenile offender statutes all govern the court’s sentencing authority.

Transfer hearings are governed by CRS § 19-2-806. If a case has been transferred to adult court by the juvenile judge, the adult court may impose any sentence that the juvenile court could have imposed had the matter been handled by the juvenile court system, can remand the matter to juvenile court for sentencing or may impose an adult sentence. However, if the juvenile is convicted of a class one felony or has been previously adjudicated a mandatory sentence offender, violent juvenile offender or aggravated juvenile offender, he or she must be sentenced as an adult.
Youth Offender System

In a September 1993 special session, the General Assembly created the Youth Offender System (“Y.O.S.”).144 Y.O.S. is intended to be an intermediate sentencing option for those youths who are not adults under the law (fourteen through seventeen years of age), but who need more intensive intervention than the juvenile court system can deliver.

A Y.O.S. sentence may be imposed if the offender is charged as an adult under CRS § 19-2-805 (direct filed), is fourteen years of age or older and is: (1) convicted of a felony crime of violence as defined in CRS § 16-11-309, excluding class 1 felonies and class 2 crimes of violence; (2) convicted of a felony gun offense enumerated in CRS § 18-12-101 et seq., except possession of a handgun; (3) used, or possessed and threatened the use of, a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony against a person enumerated in CRS § 18-3-101 et seq.; or (4) has two or more prior adjudications for offenses that would be felonies if committed by an adult.

CRS § 19-2-805(1)(b) states that attempts, conspiracies, solicitations and complicity to commit the predicate offenses also are punishable with a Y.O.S. sentence.

The previous list notwithstanding, offenders convicted of a sex offense enumerated in CRS § 18-3-401 et seq. or who have previously been sentenced to the Y.O.S. program or the D.O.C. may not be given a Y.O.S. sentence.

A Y.O.S. sentence is imposed for a determinate period of between two and six years, plus a period of community supervision. As an incentive for performance, a D.O.C. sentence also is imposed but suspended. If the D.O.C.’s executive director determines an offender cannot successfully complete the Y.O.S. sentence, the court can, on request, impose the suspended D.O.C. sentence. In this case, the time spent in the Y.O.S. program is counted in computing the prison sentence. The suspended sentence is deemed satisfied if the Y.O.S. sentence is successfully completed.

Credit for this article goes to fellow attorney Phil Cherner.

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