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Woo v. El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

2022 CO 56. No. 20SC865. Motion for Return of Lawfully Seized Property—Ancillary Jurisdiction of Trial Court Over Motion for Return of Property Following Sentencing—Morrow Test for Ancillary Jurisdiction—CGIA Immunity from Civil Replevin in Detention Actions—Constitutional Due Process Protection Against Erroneous Deprivation of Property.

December 12, 2022

Following his conviction and sentence for first degree murder, Woo brought this civil replevin action seeking the return of property lawfully seized by the government as part of his criminal case. The trial court ruled, and the court of appeals agreed (on different grounds), that the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA) bars Woo’s claim. On appeal, Woo argued that if the CGIA precludes his replevin action, he is rendered remediless and thus the CGIA violates his rights under the Due Process Clauses of the federal and state constitutions.

The Supreme Court held that, subject to the limitations discussed in this opinion, a defendant may file a motion for return of lawfully seized property following entry of a conviction and imposition of a sentence, so long as the motion is filed (1) before the deadline to lodge a direct appeal expires or a direct appeal is timely perfected, or (2) once the trial court reacquires jurisdiction following a direct appeal, during postconviction proceedings, or after any appeal related to those proceedings.  Because Woo has a remedy in his criminal case, and because that remedy is constitutionally adequate, the CGIA’s bar of his replevin action does not violate his federal and state constitutional rights to procedural due process. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment, albeit on slightly different grounds.

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

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