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FAQ: Understanding Colorado’s Habitual Criminal Charges Law

In Denver, Colorado and across the state – at times – District Attorney’s will file and use Habitual Criminal Counts – also known as Repeat Offender Charges to compel a Defendant to take a plea agreement in an otherwise weak case.

Colorado’s current habitual-offender law dates back to 1993. It was part of a wave of get-tough sentencing measures that swept the country in the early 1990s, including California’s notorious three-strikes law.

These cases require a Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney Lawyer who is experienced at challenging these charges on technical grounds

What is an Habitual Criminal Charge?

The purposes of the habitual criminal sentencing provisions are found in the law  – section 18-1.3-801, C.R.S. 2008,

…to punish more severely those individuals who show a propensity toward repeated criminal conduct.

…Sentences imposed under the habitual criminal statute relate to the enhancement of punishment of the felony for which a defendant is currently charged and convicted.

California’s version of the Habitual Criminal Law – has been challenged in the courts and repeatedly upheld as constitutional.  In Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11, 29-30 (2003) the constitutionality of California’s “three-strikes” law was upheld stating that the defendant’s “sentence is justified by the State’s public-safety interest in incapacitating and deterring recidivist felons, and amply supported by his own long, serious criminal record”.

Those who prosecute and defend Colorado Habitual Criminal cases refer to these cases as the “Little or Baby Bitch” and the “Big Bitch.” To be eligible for sentencing under what is known as the “big” habitual criminal statute, an individual must have three prior felonies separately brought and tried and arising from separate and distinct episodes in this state or elsewhere. The sentence is four times the presumptive maximum for the instant crime.

The “little” habitual criminal statute provides a sentence of three times the presumptive maximum if the instant felony is a class one through class five felony, and if the offender has two prior felonies within ten years. The penalty is keyed to the severity of the instant offense.

Section 18-1.3-801.  Punishment for habitual criminals.  Reads as follows:

(1) (a)  A person shall be adjudged an habitual criminal and shall be punished by a term in the department of corrections of life imprisonment if the person:

[ The “Baby or Little Bitch”]

(1.5)  Every person convicted in this state of any class 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 felony who, within ten years of the date of the commission of the said offense, has been twice previously convicted upon charges separately brought and tried, and arising out of separate and distinct criminal episodes, either in this state or elsewhere, of a felony or, under the laws of any other state, the United States, or any territory subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, of a crime which, if committed within this state, would be a felony shall be adjudged an habitual criminal and shall be punished for the felony offense of which such person is convicted by confinement imprisonment in a correctional facility the department of corrections for a term of three times the maximum of the presumptive range pursuant to section 18-1.3-401 for the class of felony of which such person is convicted.

[ The “Big Bitch” ]

(2)  Every person convicted in this state of any felony, who has been three times previously convicted, upon charges separately brought and tried, and arising out of separate and distinct criminal episodes, either in this state or elsewhere, of a felony or, under the laws of any other state, the United States, or any territory subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, of a crime which, if committed within this state, would be a felony, shall be adjudged an habitual criminal and shall be punished for the felony offense of which such person is convicted by imprisonment in a correctional facility the department of corrections for a term of four times the maximum of the presumptive range pursuant to section 18-1.3-401 for the class of felony of which such person is convicted. Such former conviction or convictions and judgment or judgments shall be set forth in apt words in the indictment or information. Nothing in this part 1 shall abrogate or affect the punishment by death in any and all crimes punishable by death on or after July 1, 1972.

(2.5)  Any person who is convicted and sentenced pursuant to subsection (2) of this section, who is thereafter convicted of a felony which is a crime of violence pursuant to section 18-1.3-406, shall be adjudged an habitual criminal and shall be punished by a term in the department of corrections of life imprisonment. No person sentenced pursuant to this subsection (2.5) shall be eligible for parole until such person has served at least forty calendar years.

To determine the effect a an habitual criminal count – you need to next understand the maximum presumptive sentence for the felony that the Defendant is charged, but not yet convicted of, click on the following link to see the Colorado State Felony Sentencing chart.

https://www.criminal-lawyer-colorado.com/sentencingchart.html

In  the near future – I will draft a page on what is known as Proportionality review — such a review is an appeal designed to challenge the imposition of a sentence under the Colorado Habitual Criminal Laws – that is patently unfair.

At The Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm we have over 26 years of experience in Habitual Offender / Repeat Offender Cases

If you have been charged as a habitual criminal, please contact us.


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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