Coronavirus has changed our day to day lives in many ways, including the court and jail systems. Given just how contagious the virus has proven to be, Colorado has taken steps to change how low level offenses are being handled. Officials in Denver and Boulder have given directives to law enforcement to reduce arrests for low-level offenses so that the number of individuals taken to jail is reduced. The idea here is to protect inmates and staff in jails, where social distancing practices are nearly impossible to maintain, and to reduce the potential number of coronavirus infections.
These “low-level” offenses include petty offenses and non-violent crimes and some drug crimes. These include offenses such as traffic violations, public indecency, theft, disturbing the peace and minor-in-possession of alcohol/marijuana. Normally, a person accuse of these types of offenses would be arrested and taken to jail, where they would either wait to appear in Court or would post a bond for their release prior to a Court date. Law enforcement is now being encouraged to issues a Summons to Appear in Court, instead of making a formal arrest. Persons issued a Summons will still have to go to Court and answer the accusations, but importantly they can remain out of jail while the case proceeds.
Inmates currently in jail for low-level offenses are eligible for consideration of release. Some inmates that have serious health conditions or a compromised immune system that the state has concluded can be safely released are being recommended for release. Inmates that have less than 45 days left in their sentence are also being considered for release.
Several other steps are also being taken to reduce inmate populations and assist social distancing measures. The Department of Corrections is expediting and expanding releases to parole from prisons, especially for older inmates, arrests for technical violations of probation and parole are being limited, mass bond hearings are being held by telephone for those inmates a Judge or Prosecutor believe require a monetary bond, and prosecutors have been asked to seek monetary bonds only in instances where it is believed necessary to protect the public or prevent a defendant from fleeing Colorado.
These changes are being implemented state wide and many are already in effect. If you know someone who is presently in custody for a low-level offense they may be eligible for early release.