January 30, 2019

Denver, CO — The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted 3-to-2 to advance SB19-030, Remedying Improper Guilty Pleas, a bill that would allow defendants to vacate unconstitutional guilty pleas that have been withdrawn after the successful completion of a deferred judgment.

“For six years, my work with noncitizen clients at a criminal defense and immigration law firm underscored the need for this kind of progressive policy,” said Senator Julie Gonzales (D-Denver), the Senate sponsor. “No Coloradan should suffer because they were not advised about the immigration consequences related to their successfully completed deferred judgement.”

When defendants accept deferred judgments under current law, they are advised that their case will be dismissed upon completion of the deferred judgment. However, successfully completed deferred judgment cases affect immigrants under federal immigration law, even after the case is dismissed in the Colorado criminal courts. Consequently, noncitizen Coloradans who accept deferred judgment are too often wholly unaware that this acceptance may harm their immigration status.

This legislation was written in partnership with defense attorneys, district attorneys, immigration attorneys, constituents, and directly-impacted individuals who have been adversely affected by the gap in policy between federal immigration law and Colorado statute. It is supported by a wide variety of stakeholders, including the Office of the Denver District Attorney, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Immigration Clinic, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, and immigration and criminal defense practitioners, including the Meyer Law Office, P.C., Joseph Law Firm, P.C., and Johnson Knudsen, LLC.

Erica Cano, a constituent who provided testimony in support of the bill, explained that its passage would offer “hope” for her and her husband Francisco, a lawful permanent resident who suffers ongoing immigration consequences after successfully completing a deferred judgment nearly a decade ago. Cano stated, “Francisco has made sure that I am okay [throughout the duration of his legal battle], and now it is my turn to stand up and be an advocate for him.”

“Senate Bill 30 is the first in a long series of steps to remove unjust burdens from ordinary Coloradans who have interacted with a criminal justice system that too often adversely affects community members of color, immigrants, and individuals who cannot afford the costs of private legal representation,” said Senator Gonzales.

SB19-030 is the first of many progressive criminal justice reforms that will come before the Senate Judiciary committee this legislative session.

To learn more about SB19-030, please visit https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-030.