Skip to comments.Colorado Courts Continue to Protect Felonsí Rights to Keep and Bear Arms
Posted on 03/02/2012 5:22:04 AM PST by marktwain
As I noted last Fall, Colorado courts have treated the Colorado Constitutions right to keep and bear arms provision as substantially protecting felons rights to keep guns for self-defense an approach quite different from that used by the U.S. Supreme Court in interpreting the Second Amendment, or by other states courts interpreting those states constitutions. Todays State v. Carbajal (Colo. Ct. App. Mar. 1, 2012) reaffirms that. An excerpt:
In 1876, the new State of Colorado adopted a constitution that included a provision in its bill of rights establishing a right to keep and bear arms in defense of ones home, person, and property:
The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called into question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons.
Colo. Const. art. II, § 13 (section 13) (emphasis added). This provision has never been amended.
During the twentieth century, the Colorado General Assembly enacted a statute making possession of a weapon by a previous offender (POWPO) unlawful. § 18-12-108(1), (2)(a), C.R.S. 2011. Although the POWPO statute does not refer to section 13, in People v. Ford, 193 Colo. 459, 462, 568 P.2d 26, 28 (1977), the supreme court held that a defendant may raise an affirmative defense to a POWPO charge under section 13 by presenting competent evidence that his or her purpose in possessing weapons was defense of home, person, and property.
Beginning in 1983, the stock jury instructions utilized by trial courts in Colorado have included an instruction following Ford:
It is an affirmative defense to the crime of [POWPO] that the defendant possessed the weapon for the purpose of defending his [home] [property] [person].
See COLJI-Crim. H:51 (2008). In recent years, however, some prosecutors have asked trial courts to alter the stock instruction by adding a requirement that the defendants purpose in possessing the weapons arises from a reasonable belief in a threat of imminent harm .
In this case, defendant, Joddy Leon Carbajal, appeals the judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of two POWPO counts. He argues that the trial court committed reversible error when it rejected his tender of the stock jury instruction regarding his affirmative defense to the POWPO charges and instead utilized a version provided by the prosecution, which added language concerning a reasonable belief of a threat of imminent harm. We agree, reverse the judgment of conviction, and remand for a new trial .
By virtue of section 13, a defendant presenting competent evidence that his or her purpose in possessing weapons was defense of home, person, and property raises an affirmative defense to a POWPO charge. Ford, 193 Colo. at 462, 568 P.2d at 28; People v. DeWitt, ___ P.3d ___, ___, 2011 WL 4089974, *4 (Colo. App. No. 10CA1271, Sept. 15, 2011). As long as the defendant presents some credible evidence, or a scintilla of evidence, in support of the affirmative defense, the jury decides whether the defendant possessed a weapon for a constitutionally protected purpose. If the defendant presents such evidence, the prosecution then has the burden of disproving the affirmative defense beyond a reasonable doubt .
The People argue that, without an imminent threat requirement, the POWPO statute would be unenforceable, in effect a dead letter allowing previous offenders to carry firearms. We are unconvinced for three reasons.
First, the verdict form asked only whether defendant possessed a weapon. There was no contention at trial that he used or carried the guns in his home.
Second, while a defendant need only present some credible evidence that his or her purpose in possessing weapons was for the defense of person, home, and property, the prosecution is not limited in the arguments it can make to disprove the affirmative defense. The arguments the prosecution made in this case could have been made under the stock jury instruction, as the jury ultimately chooses whether to believe a defendants assertion of purpose. Compare DeWitt, ___ P.3d at ___, 2011 WL 4089974, *6 (the defendant was entitled to the stock jury instruction where he presented some credible evidence of a constitutionally protected purpose for weapon possession), with People v. Barger, 732 P.2d 1225, 1226 (Colo. App. 1986) (the defendant was not entitled to affirmative defense instruction where he presented no evidence that public possession of weapon in a bar was based on any threat to his person, home, or property).
Third, the supreme courts decision in Ford has been on the books for over thirty-four years. Our supreme court is the final arbiter of our state constitution, and we are bound by its precedent .
In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 630, 635 (2008), the United States Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and defense of hearth and home. The Court concluded that nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on the longstanding prohibitions of the possession of firearms by felons. Heller, 554 U.S. at 626. Numerous federal courts have followed Heller in upholding the constitutionality of the federal counterpart to POWPO, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). See, e.g., United States v. Torres-Rosario, 658 F.3d 110, 113 n.1 (1st Cir. 2011) (collecting cases); United States v. McCane, 573 F.3d 1037, 1047 (10th Cir. 2009). [Footnote: Judge Tymkovich stated in his concurring opinion in McCane that the language in Heller regarding the constitutionality of felon in possession statutes was dictum, but also observed that Supreme Court dicta bind us almost as firmly as the Courts outright holdings. 573 F.3d at 1047 (quoting Surefoot LC v. Sure Foot Corp., 531 F.3d 1236, 1243 (10th Cir. 2008)). Other courts have concluded that the language was not dictum. See, e.g., United States v. Barton, 633 F.3d 168, 171 (3d Cir. 2011) (collecting cases).]
My viewpoint is that if somebody is too dangerous to own a gun, then he's too dangerous to be loose on the streets.
I’ve always found it interesting that when you are convicted of a felony, you lose your ‘rights’,(if that were not so, you wouldn’t be incarcerated),but once your sentence is complete all of your rights are restored EXCEPT the ‘right to bare arms’.
Why is that?
It’s always been my belief that once you’ve done your time, ALL of your rights should be restored. Not just ‘some’ of them.
Otherwise your are still serving a ‘continued’ sentence unjustly.
your = you’re
This could trigger an avalanche of felons into Colorado.
Many states have procedures whereby a felon can get his gun rights restored. Texas even goes so far as to make it automatic if the felony was committed in Texas and 5 years have passed after completion of sentence. They do limit possession to the home, however. The feds even recognize the restoration of rights and you can have your record cleared with the NICS check, allowing you to buy firearms from licensed dealers.
If an ex-felon has the intent to use a firearm for nefarious purposes, the laws of the respective state will be meaningless to him. If on the other hand, an ex-felon wants a firearm for the legitimate purpose of defending himself and his loved ones, then yes, he'll probably gravitate to CO or other state with similar rules on the books.
I’m probably jumping into a snake pit here, but my belief is that once a man has served his time (and parole, if any), all his rights should be restored.
If he is still a danger to the community, maybe the crime should require a longer sentence. For instance, sex offender registries. Wouldn’t it be better to keep real sex offenders in prison until they can be carted out feet-first, and leave 18-year old boys who have sex with their 16-year old girlfriends out of it?
Just my opinion, fire away. I will answer as I get the chance.
Don’t like it much. I have always thought that it should be possible to have an ex-con’s RKBA restored, but it should not be easy. Still, this is FAR better than restricting gun ownership by law-abiding folks.
People in Idaho can petition to have their gun right restored five years after their final release if their crime did not involve a gun.
“Its always been my belief that once youve done your time, ALL of your rights should be restored. Not just some of them.”
I agree with you.
In fact, I was kicked out of a jury box for stating your exact point. Left the poor couple facing gun possesion charges with a jury of gun grabbers and second amendment infringers.
The right of self defense is one of the inalienable rights. The only people who should be denied this right are those who have committed violent crimes.
We have allowed government to conduct warfare against citizens in many ways. One way is that the scope of crimes that are defined as “felonies” is constantly being expanded. Long ago we have covered all crimes of violence as felonious. Now we define white collar crimes as such. In the case of the government’s complaint against Gibson Guitars, we have allowed the allegation of the violation of foreign law to be the basis for a potential felony charge here in the US.
Further, many felony-level laws in the US define a dollar amount. I believe that in US code generally if the penalty is more than $10,000, it is considered a felony. Thanks to inflation, the number of crimes which would reach this limit are slowly expanding as the Federal Reserve Corporation dilutes our currency.
All this works to bring Ayn Rand’s prediction to pass:
“There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”
I think your statement should be expressed in this way. The only people who should be denied this right are those who are incarcerated.
We either have god given rights or we do not. A person in society has rights or he/she should not be in s society.
Many things are now felonies that shouldn’t be. Riding a bicycle in a wilderness area is one example.
I think in that situation you're supposed to keep your mouth shut till deliberating with the other jurors after the trial. Even then all you do is vote to acquit unless a substantial number of your fellow jurors strike you as sufficiently intelligent/unsheepleized to grasp and accept a Constitutionally-based argument. IOW, people capable of forming the thought that their "official government instructions" might be erroneous, and if so, are not to be considered binding.
You could cure this particular effect of this felony definition-creep by prohibiting possession not by any "felon" but picking a fixed date, say 1950, and only prohibiting persons convicted of an act that was considered a felony on that date. This would do a couple things, both good: It would give the law legitimacy by restricting the definition of felony to one more people could consider sane, and two, it would remove one incentive to criminalize anything and everything. How do we know this isn't one reason for the explosion in the definition of felonies in the first place?
None that I'm aware of. A shame really. If you're a free man, you have the inalienable right to self defense. If the supreme court intepreted the 2nd amendment the way they do the first, you'd be legally required to carry an M-16 all the time unless you were a concientious objector.
“Do any other states?”
Texas. I think it’s 5 years after completion of sentence.
Child molester should be able to go back to running his day care? The Drug Pharmacist back to his Pharmacy, the corrupt cop back to the force after he is ‘purified’ from prison?
Child molester shouldn’t be let out to begin with or at the very least his ‘sentence’ should be ‘indeterminate’.
Drug Pharmacist can have his ‘state license’ revoked. That’s not a ‘right’.
The bad cops ‘job’ is also not a ‘right’.