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People ex rel. L.C.

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Seventh Division

June 15, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of L.C., Juvenile-Appellant.

         El Paso County District Court No. 14JD739 Honorable G. David Miller, Judge

          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Carmen Moraleda, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Ryann S. Hardman, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          VOGT JUDGE. [*]

         ¶ 1 L.C., a juvenile, appeals the district court judgment adjudicating him a delinquent based on his commission of acts that, if committed by an adult, would constitute the offenses of unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon and violating a protection order. L.C. challenges the constitutionality of the concealed weapon statute and of the protection order, and he contends that the evidence was insufficient to establish that he committed the charged offenses. We are unpersuaded by his contentions and therefore affirm the judgment.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 In September 2014, a police officer observed L.C. in a public park after hours. The officer contacted L.C., obtained his name and date of birth, and discovered that L.C. was subject to a protection order. That protection order, entered against L.C. in an unrelated case in 2013, provided, among other things, that L.C. was not to "possess or control a firearm or other weapon."

         ¶ 3 The officer then asked to search the backpack that L.C. was carrying. L.C. began pulling objects out of the backpack, but avoided one compartment. When the officer looked in that compartment, he found a knife with a five and one-half inch blade inside a sheath.

         ¶ 4 L.C. was arrested. The People filed a petition in delinquency, charging L.C. with violation of a protection order, unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon, and trespass. After a bench trial, the magistrate found L.C. not guilty of trespass but guilty of the other two offenses. He adjudicated L.C. delinquent and sentenced him to probation. L.C. petitioned for district court review, arguing that the concealed weapon statute was void for vagueness and that the original protection order was invalid. The district court denied the petition in a written order, and this appeal followed.

         II. Concealed Weapon Offense

         ¶ 5 L.C. contends that section 18-12-105, C.R.S. 2016, which defines the offense of unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon, is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. We conclude that the statute is not unconstitutionally vague, and we do not reach the merits of his overbreadth argument because he did not raise it in the district court.

         ¶ 6 Whether a statute is constitutional is an issue that we review de novo. Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, 169 P.3d 662, 668 (Colo. 2007). Statutes are presumed to be constitutional, and a party challenging a statute's constitutionality has the burden of showing that the statute is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15, 18 (Colo. 2003). If there is more than one possible interpretation of the statute, we must adopt the constitutional construction. Id.

         A. Vagueness

         1. General Legal Principles

         ¶ 7 To comport with the requirements of due process under the United States and Colorado Constitutions, statutes must define criminal offenses "with sufficient definiteness that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited and in a manner that does not encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement." Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352, 357 (1983); accord People v. Stotz, 2016 COA 16, ¶ 25. A statute is unconstitutionally vague if it "forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that persons of ordinary intelligence must necessarily guess as to its meaning and differ as to its application." People v. Gross, 830 P.2d 933, 937 (Colo. 1992) (quoting People v. Becker, 759 P.2d 26, 31 (Colo. 1988)).

         ¶ 8 The requirement that a statute be reasonably definite serves two important purposes: (1) it provides fair warning of proscribed conduct, so that persons may guide their actions accordingly; and (2) it ensures that statutory standards are sufficiently specific so that police officers and other actors in the criminal justice system can avoid arbitrary and discriminatory application. Id.

         ¶ 9 In assessing whether a statute is reasonably definite, we give words and phrases used in the statute their generally accepted meanings. People v. Janousek, 871 P.2d 1189, 1196 (Colo. 1994). A statute may be sufficiently definite even if it does not contain precise definitions of every word or phrase ...


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