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People v. Licata.

2023 COA 34. No. 21CA0033. Mandatory Protection Order—Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity—Acquittal.

April 20, 2023

Licata physically assaulted his partner A.B, and her daughter N.B. witnessed the incident. A.B. escaped with N.B. to a neighbor’s house and called Licata’s parents for help. When Licata’s father arrived, Licata stabbed him to death with a samurai sword. Licata was charged with first degree murder (father), second degree assault (A.B.), and child abuse (N.B.). The court entered a mandatory protection order (MPO) for A.B. and N.B. The district court found Licata not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) and committed him to “the custody of the Department of Human Services until such time as he is found eligible for release.” The court also entered an order extending the MPO for 99 years. Defense counsel moved to clarify and confirm the dismissal of the MPO, arguing that an NGRI verdict constitutes an acquittal. The court denied the motion.

On appeal, Licata contended that the district court misapplied the MPO statute and controlling caselaw in extending the MPO because an NGRI verdict constitutes an acquittal ending the criminal case. By its plain language, CRS § 18-1-1001(1) extends an MPO’s effect until final disposition of the action. CRS § 18-1-1001(8)(b) provides that final disposition of an action occurs when (1) the case is dismissed, (2) the defendant is acquitted, or (3) the defendant’s sentence is completed. The plain language of CRS § 18-1-1001 does not distinguish an acquittal resulting from an NGRI verdict from one resulting from a not guilty verdict; an NGRI verdict is an adjudication on the merits absolving the defendant of criminal responsibility forever; and an NGRI verdict requires the court to commit the defendant to the Department of Human Services, which commitment is not a criminal sentence for a conviction. Accordingly, the MPO terminates upon an NGRI verdict, and the district court lacked jurisdiction to extend the MPO.

The order was reversed and the case was remanded to vacate the MPO.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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