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People v. Boyd

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

January 17, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner
v.
Pamela Kathleen Boyd. Respondent

         Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 12CA2607

         Judgment Affirmed

          Attorneys for Petitioner: Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General Kevin E. McReynolds, Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Respondent: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender Sean James Lacefield, Deputy Public Defender Denver, Colorado

          JUSTICE EID dissents, and JUSTICE COATS and JUSTICE HOOD join in the dissent.

          OPINION

          RICE CHIEF JUSTICE.

         ¶1 This case requires us to determine if Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, which legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, deprived the State of the power to continue to prosecute cases where there was a nonfinal conviction for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and where there was a pending right to appeal (subsequently exercised by filing a timely notice of appeal) at the time the Amendment became effective. We hold that it did.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶2 On October 27, 2011, the police arrested Respondent Pamela Boyd after she and her boyfriend sold marijuana to an undercover officer. Boyd admitted to possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, but denied any involvement in distribution. The total marijuana collected from Boyd weighed less than one ounce. On August 8, 2012, a jury found Boyd guilty of both attempt to distribute marijuana and possession of marijuana. The trial court sentenced Boyd on November 14, 2012. Then on December 10, 2012, Amendment 64-a Colorado citizen initiative that legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use-became effective. See Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 16(3)(a). On December 21, 2012, Boyd filed a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, Boyd argued that because the Amendment legalized possession of less than one ounce of marijuana while she still had a pending right to appeal, her conviction for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana should be vacated. The court of appeals in a split decision agreed and reversed her possession conviction. People v. Boyd, 2015 COA 109, ¶ 46, ___ P.3d ___. Judge Bernard dissented. Id. at ¶ 49. We granted certiorari.[1]

         II. Standard of Review

         ¶3 The proper interpretation of a constitutional amendment is a question of law that we review de novo. Danielson v. Dennis, 139 P.3d 688, 691 (Colo. 2006).

         III. Analysis

         ¶4 Amendment 64 legalized the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.[2] Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 16(3)(a). Specifically, it provides: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following act[ ] [is] not unlawful and shall not be an offense under Colorado law or the law of any locality within Colorado . . . for persons twenty-one years of age or older: . . . [p]ossessing . . . one ounce or less of marijuana." Id. The Amendment supersedes laws that had previously criminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. See id. at § 16(8) ("[E]xcept where otherwise indicated in the text, [all provisions of this section] shall supersede conflicting state statutory, local charter, ordinance, or resolution, and other state and local provisions."(emphasis added)).

         ¶5 This case presents an opportunity to resolve whether Amendment 64 deprived the State of the power to continue to prosecute cases where there was a nonfinal conviction for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana with a pending right to appeal when Amendment 64 became effective. To resolve this, we examine the State's authority to continue prosecuting a criminal defendant ...


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