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Hunsaker Jr. v. People.

2021 CO 83. No. 20SC360. Criminal Procedure—Postconviction Relief—Time for Filing—Correction of Illegal Sentence—Collateral Attack.

December 20, 2021

In this case, the Supreme Court explained how Crim. P. 35(a), which allows individuals convicted of a criminal offense to correct an illegal sentence “at any time,” interacts with Crim. P. 35(c) and its related statute of limitations, CRS § 16-5-402(1), which generally require criminal defendants to seek postconviction review within three years of the date of their convictions. The Court reaffirmed its conclusion in Leyva v. People, 184 P.3d 48, 50–51 (Colo. 2008), that the correction of an illegal sentence allows a defendant to pursue an otherwise time-­barred Crim. P. 35(c) motion. However, the Court clarified that the corrected sentence only allows a defendant to raise arguments that address how the illegality in their sentence potentially affected the original conviction. The late filing of such claims is permitted under CRS §16-5-402(2)(d), which allows a defendant to pursue otherwise time-barred postconviction review in the case of justifiable excuse and excusable neglect, but correction of an illegal sentence does not excuse the late filing of Crim. P. 35(c) arguments unrelated to the illegality in the sentence. Finally, the Court disavowed the notion that a conviction is never final until an illegal sentence is corrected and reaffirmed its holding in People v. Hampton, 876 P.2d 1236, 1240 (Colo. 1994), that a conviction becomes final when direct appeal is exhausted.

Applying its holding to the facts of this case, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment that the correction of defendant’s sentence allows him to raise an otherwise time-barred collateral attack related to the illegality in his original sentence and that only one of his Crim. P. 35(c) arguments is so related. Noting without deciding that the late filing of defendant’s remaining Crim. P. 35(c) arguments may be otherwise permissible under CRS § 16-5-402(2)(d), the Court remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


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