Last month, by a vote of 12-0, the Denver City Council approved a reform to the city’s low-level court sentences to reduce some of the maximum penalties.
Though Mayor Hancock stated that the reforms were long overdue, they were also made, in part, to help immigrants avoid deportation. When noncitizens get convicted of a crime that carries a potential penalty of at least a year in jail, they can be put on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s radar. Regardless of the sentence they actually receive, the maximum sentence of certain crimes can make a noncitizen deportable.
The sentencing reform splits violations of city ordinances into three categories depending on the severity of the crime. The most serious seven crimes still carry a maximum of a year in jail and a $999 fine. The next category is reserved for midlevel offenses, such as trespassing and shoplifting. These crimes carry up to 300 days in jail and a $999 fine. The last category is for petty crimes, which carry up to 60 days in jail and no fine. Petty crimes include public urination, curfew violations, and panhandling.
The reform also adds a “hate crime enhancement” that will allow prosecutors to ask for a boost of lower-tier offenses to the top level if the crime was motivated by a specific attribute, such as race, religion, or sexual orientation.
More serious, state level crimes tried in district court are not be impacted by these reforms. Only those violations that are tried in Denver County Court are affected.