Sexual assault charges are taken very seriously in every state. But in Colorado, convicted sex offenders face the possibility of life behind bars. This is because of the state’s indeterminate sentencing policies. Indeterminate sentencing was intended to make the state safer by encouraging convicted sex offenders to go through treatment programs. However, criminal defense attorneys in Denver, CO, assert that it is having the opposite effect.
The Lifetime Supervision Act
In 1998, the Colorado legislature passed the Lifetime Supervision Act. It establishes the framework for requiring people convicted of certain sex offenses to receive treatment and supervision for their lifetimes. The act provides for special sentencing guidelines, treatment, and intensive supervision when sex offenders are released back into the community.
The Definition of Indeterminate Sentencing
For most convicted sex offenders in Colorado, an indeterminate sentence means serving at least the minimum of the presumptive sentencing range for the particular offense. The maximum term is the sex offender’s natural life. If the offense is a crime of violence, the minimum sentence is the midpoint of the presumptive range, with a maximum of the offender’s natural life. Sex offenders who were aware they were HIV-positive prior to committing the offense, and those who are habitual sex offenders, are sentenced to at least three times the upper limit of the presumptive range, with a maximum of a life sentence.
The Unintended Consequences of Indeterminate Sentencing
When a Colorado judge hands down a prison term for a conviction on sexual assault charges, he or she is fully aware that the prisoner could be sent to prison for the rest of his or her life. Whether the prisoner is ever released is at the discretion of the parole board. Because of this, multiple judges in Colorado are known to sentence convicted sex offenders to probation instead. In some cases, this has caused outrage among community members, as high-profile cases resulted in convicted sex offenders being released instead of incarcerated. Critics say indeterminate sentencing makes the community less safe. Additionally, the law faces criticism from sexual assault attorneys, as it’s possible for one individual to serve a life sentence for the same conviction that allows another person to re-enter the community immediately.