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In re People

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

June 16, 2014

In Re: The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff:
v.
Robert S. Storlie, Defendant:

Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21 . Pueblo County District Court No. 05CR1210. Honorable Victor Reyes, Judge.

SYLLABUS

In this Rule 21 proceeding, the defendant and the district attorney sought extraordinary relief from the trial court's denial of the district attorney's motion to dismiss the charges against the defendant pursuant to Crim. P. 48(a). The supreme court issued a rule to show cause and now makes the rule absolute. A trial court may only deny the prosecution's unopposed motion to dismiss where it has been shown by clear and convincing evidence that the interests of the defendant or the public are jeopardized by the refusal to prosecute. The prosecution is presumed to be acting in the best interest of the public unless the prosecution is shown to have been acting in bad faith. Here, the district attorney made a good faith prosecutorial decision to dismiss the charges based on an assessment of available testimony. Accordingly, the trial court's denial of the motion to dismiss was an abuse of discretion.

For Plaintiff: J.E. Chostner, District Attorney, Tenth Judicial District, Karl Kuenhold, Deputy District Attorney, Pueblo, Colorado.

For Defendant: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender, Robert Houton, Deputy Public Defender, Pueblo, Colorado.

For Honorable Victor Reyes, Respondent: John Suthers, Attorney General, Matthew D. Grove, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado.

OPINION

Page 244

EID, JUSTICE.

[¶1] In this Rule 21 proceeding, petitioner Robert Storlie argues that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to grant the district attorney's motion under Crim. P. 48(a) to dismiss the charges against him. In response, the respondent trial court (" Respondent" ), through a brief filed on its behalf by the Attorney General's office, argues that a criminal defendant such as Storlie has no standing to challenge the denial of a motion to dismiss. Respondent further argues that

Page 245

even if Storlie has standing, there was no abuse of discretion in denying the motion to dismiss.

[¶2] First, we conclude that we need not decide whether Storlie has standing to challenge the trial court's denial of the motion to dismiss because the district attorney, who joined in Storlie's request for relief before this Court, has standing to challenge such a denial. Moving on to the merits, we hold that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion to dismiss because there was no evidence that the prosecution acted in bad faith in seeking the dismissal, nor did the trial court make any findings suggesting bad faith. Instead, the record demonstrates that the prosecution based its motion to dismiss the charges against Storlie on its candid assessment of the strength of the victim's and potential witnesses' testimony. Based on this assessment, the prosecution concluded that there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case. We find that the prosecution's decision to dismiss the charges against Storlie constitutes a " good faith exercise of prosecutorial discretion," as set forth in People v. Lichtenstein, 630 P.2d 70, 73 (Colo. 1981). Accordingly, we make our rule absolute and remand the case to the trial court with instructions to grant the motion to dismiss.

I.

[¶3] Storlie was originally charged with sexual assault on a child in 2005, but he was not apprehended until 2012, when he was found in Texas after being stopped for a traffic offense. Storlie's case was then ...


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