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.