People v. Harrison.
2020 CO 57. No. 19SC448. CRS § 18-1-711(1)(a)—Good-Faith Reporting Requirement—Requirement to Report Acute Condition Caused by Consumption or Use of Drugs or Alcohol—Objective and Subjective Standards—Sufficiency of the Evidence to Disprove Affirmative Defense.
June 15, 2020
CRS § 18-1-711(1)(a) provides that, if a person suffers an emergency drug or alcohol overdose event, he or she may not be prosecuted, or even arrested, for possession of a controlled substance or possession of drug paraphernalia if someone “report[ed] in good faith [the] emergency drug or alcohol overdose event to a law enforcement officer, to the 911 system, or to a medical provider.” Here, defendant was charged with possession of two controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. Before trial, she filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that she was entitled to immunity because she had suffered an emergency drug overdose event that was reported by another person to the 911 system. Though the district court denied her motion, it allowed her to rely on that statute to raise an affirmative defense at trial. The jury found defendant guilty as charged, but a division of the Court of Appeals vacated her judgment of conviction.
The Supreme Court considered two questions: (1) whether the division correctly construed the requirement in CRS § 18-1-711(1)(a) that a person must “report in good faith an emergency drug or alcohol overdose event”; and (2) whether the division correctly concluded that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to disprove defendant’s affirmative defense and, consequently, to support her convictions. The Court answered both questions in the negative, holding that the plain language of CRS § 18-1-711(1)(a) requires both that a person report in good faith what he or she subjectively perceives is an acute condition caused by the consumption or use of drugs or alcohol, and that a layperson would reasonably believe that the reported condition is a drug or alcohol overdose needing medical assistance. Further, assuming without deciding that defendant was entitled to invoke CRS § 18-1-711 as an affirmative defense at trial, the Court concluded that the evidence introduced, when viewed as a whole and in the light most favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient to disprove her affirmative defense and support her convictions. Because the Court of Appeals reached different conclusions on both fronts, its judgment was reversed.
CRS § 18-1-711(1)(a), Good-Faith Reporting Requirement, Requirement to Report Acute Condition Caused by Consumption or Use of Drugs or Alcohol, Objective and Subjective Standards, Sufficiency of the Evidence to Disprove Affirmative Defense