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In re People v. Smith.

2023 CO 40. No. 23SA2. Constitutional Interpretation—Right to Bail—Capital Offenses Exception.

June 20, 2023

In this original proceeding pursuant to C.A.R. 21, the Supreme Court reviewed a district court’s order treating a criminal defendant’s charge of first-degree murder as a capital offense for purposes of article II, section 19(1)(a) of the Colorado Constitution (section 19(1)(a)), which authorizes a district court to deny bail if proof is evident and presumption is great that a capital offense has been committed.

Because (1) the term “capital offenses,” as it appears in section 19(1)(a), plainly and unambiguously refers to offenses for which a statute authorizes the imposition of the death penalty; and (2) the General Assembly has statutorily abolished the death penalty as a punishment for offenses (like the one here) charged on or after July 1, 2020 (see CRS § 16-11-901), the Court concluded that the district court abused its discretion when it treated the charge of first-degree murder as a capital offense and then denied Smith’s request for bail.

Accordingly, the Court made its rule to show cause absolute.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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