County District Court No. 12CR89. Honorable Richard T.
H. Coffman, Attorney General, Rebecca Adams Jones, Senior
Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for
K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Nathaniel E.
Deakins, Deputy Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for
by JUDGE FOX. Dailey and Lichtenstein, JJ., concur.
[¶1] Defendant, Joseph Nelson, was charged
with aggravated cruelty to animals, cruelty to animals, and
underage possession of alcohol after a 2011 incident in which
he killed his mother's dog. Nelson was a juvenile at the
time of the offense, but he was charged as an adult under
Colorado's direct filing statute, Ch. 264, sec. 1, §
19-2-517, 2010 Colo. Sess. Laws 1199 (direct filing statute
or Statute). The Statute allows the state, in certain
circumstances, to charge juvenile offenders as adults by
filing the charges directly in district court. When Nelson
was charged, a juvenile accused of committing a felony could
be charged in district court if the juvenile qualified as a
" habitual juvenile offender." Id. at
1200. Nelson concedes that he was a habitual juvenile
offender and that he was properly charged under the
then-existing direct filing statute.
[¶2] Months after Nelson was charged, but
before he entered a guilty plea and was sentenced, the
governor signed into law House Bill 12-1271, which
significantly amended the direct filing statute. See
Ch. 128, sec. 1, § 19-2-517, 2012 Colo. Sess. Laws
439-45 (approved Apr. 20, 2012). The amendments narrowed the
circumstances in which juveniles may be charged as adults by
direct filing. The amended Statute allows direct filing only
where a juvenile (1) is alleged to have committed a "
crime of violence" pursuant to section 18-1.3-406,
C.R.S. 2014; (2) is alleged to have committed certain sexual
assault crimes; or (3) has previously been convicted of
felony offenses that were, or could have been, directly filed
in district court. § 19-2-517, C.R.S. 2014. Under the
amended Statute, Nelson's offenses would not qualify for
[¶3] House Bill 12-1271 also amended the
sentencing procedures -- which vary depending on the nature
of the conviction -- for cases directly filed in district
court. The prior version of the Statute gave the district
court authority to sentence a juvenile convicted of a crime
in district court. See 2010 Colo. Sess. Laws at 1200
(§ 19-2-517(6)). Under the amended Statute, however,
when a juvenile is convicted in district court of offenses
that are not eligible for district court jurisdiction under
the direct filing statute or the transfer statute, the
district court must remand the case to juvenile
court for sentencing. See §
[¶4] On September 13, 2012, Nelson pleaded
guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals -- a class six felony
-- and the state dismissed the remaining charges and charges
in an unrelated case. The amendments to the direct filing
statute had taken effect before Nelson pleaded guilty, but
Nelson did not challenge the district court's
jurisdiction over the case. At his sentencing hearing,
however, Nelson asked the district court to apply the direct
filing statute's amended sentencing provisions. He argued
that he had been convicted of an offense that is no longer
eligible for direct filing and that, therefore, he should be
sentenced as a juvenile. The district court refused to apply
the amended Statute, stating that the Statute "
didn't apply to this incident." Nelson was sentenced
to five years of intensive supervised probation, including
eighteen months in community corrections, in accordance with
the adult felony sentencing scheme. See §
§ 18-1.3-201,-202,-401, C.R.S. 2014.
[¶5] Nelson now appeals his conviction and
sentence. He argues that the district court erred by failing
to apply the amended direct filing statute to his case, and
he contends that, had the court applied the amended statute
as required, it would have been required to remand his case
to the juvenile court for sentencing. Because we conclude
that the district court's sentencing authority over
Nelson's case remains unchanged after House Bill 12-1271
was enacted, we affirm the conviction and sentence.
Standard of Review
[¶6] Because this case involves a question
of statutory interpretation, we review the district
court's interpretation de novo. People v.
Kovacs, 284 P.3d 186, 2012 COA 111, ¶ 9. Our
primary aim when interpreting a statute is to "
ascertain and give effect to" the intent the General
Assembly has expressed in the language of the statute.
Id. ; Benefield v. Colo. Republican Party,
329 P.3d 262, 2014 CO 57, ¶ 11. To do so, we read the
statute as a whole, giving words and phrases their plain and
ordinary meanings, and interpret the statute to give
consistent, harmonious, and sensible effect to all of its
parts. Kovacs, ¶ 10. If the statute is
unambiguous, we apply the statute's unambiguous meaning
to the present case. Id. at ¶ 11. If the
statute is ambiguous, however, " we may consider prior
law, legislative history, the consequences of a given
construction, and the underlying purpose or policy of the
statute" to determine its meaning. Id.
[¶7] Before House Bill 12-1271 was passed,
the direct filing statute's sentencing provisions ...