Colorado passed legislation in 2016 that retroactively eliminates life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. In 2006, Colorado had prospectively eliminated such sentences. The 2016 statute provides that juveniles convicted of class 1 felonies shall be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after serving 40 years, less any earned time. The earned time may not be greater than 25% of the sentence. The statute also provides for the resentencing of juveniles previously sentenced to life without parole. Those convicted of first degree murder, other than felony murder, shall be sentenced to life with parole after 40 years, less any earned time. Those convicted of first degree murder under the felony murder doctrine may be sentenced to either (1) life with parole after 40 years, less any earned time or (2) a determinate sentence within the range of 30 to 50 years, less earned time. The determinate sentence may be imposed only if the court finds “extraordinary mitigating circumstances” after considering certain factors and making “factual findings to support its decision.” Under the statute, juvenile offenders have the right to counsel at these resentencing hearings and victims have the right to be heard.
A separate bill enacted in Colorado in 2016 provides a specialized program within the Department of Correction for juveniles convicted of felonies as adults and sentenced to long prison terms. Depending on the severity of the offense, prisoners can petition for the program after serving 20 or 25 years. A prisoner who successfully completes the program (which must last at least three years), is eligible to apply for early parole and is presumed to meet the criteria for release if he or she has served at least 25 or 30 years, depending on the offense. The governor must approve early parole.
S.B. 16-181, 70th Gen. Assemb., 2d Reg. Sess. (Colo. 2016) (amending Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401(4)(b)(I); 17-22.5-104(2)(c)(I), ‑(2)(d)(IV); 17-22.5-405(4); 24-4.1-302(2)(h); 24-4.1-302.5(1)(d)(IV); 24-4.1-303(12)(c) and enacting §§ 18-1.3-401(4)(c); 17-22.5-104(2)(d)(V); 17-22.5-403(2)(c); 17-22.5-405(1.2); 16-13-1001, -1002).
S.B. 16-180,70th Gen. Assemb., 2d Reg. Sess. (Colo. 2016) (amending Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 17-22.5-403.7(2), 24-4.1-302.5(1)(j) and enacting §§ 17-34-101, -102; 17-22.5-403(4.5); 17-22.5-403.7(6)).