BY FREDA MIKLIN
Two months ago, we reported that Greenwood Village was planning to add new misdemeanor crimes to its city code because city officials felt that many people who committed these crimes were not being tried or sentenced by the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and Arapahoe County Court judges seriously enough and the GV Municipal Court could potentially do a better job of adjudicating these crimes by imposing more immediate and significant consequences.
On June 6, the city made final a new law that makes it a municipal crime to:
- Steal a motor vehicle worth less than $2,000 or enter such a vehicle without permission with the intent to commit a crime (usually, stealing something that is inside it);
- Knowingly or recklessly burn or explode property worth under $2,000;
- Possess less then four grams of a controlled substance (drugs), unless that substance is fentanyl, in which case, even up to one gram is considered a crime.
All these crimes are misdemeanors. Under state law, felonies cannot be tried in Municipal Court.
Before the council voted unanimously, on June 6, City Council Member Libby Barnacle addressed the roomful of residents in the council chamber, most of whom were there to speak in support of a new law prohibiting the licensing of new retail gun stores in residential homes in GV.
She said, in part, “This ordinance, in my opinion, is one of the most important additions to our code in years. Residents should sit up and pay attention to what I believe is good government, before your eyes. Effective March 1 of this year, the Colorado legislature decriminalized certain criminal offenses, specifically reclassifying from felonies to misdemeanors, criminal trespass to motor vehicles, motor vehicle theft, and possession of four grams or less of controlled substances Classes 1, 2, 3 and 4, to name a few. This pro-criminal shift allowed Greenwood Village…to enact ordinances to prosecute such crimes.”
She continued, “I’d like to highlight the fact that the initial request to do so…though I’m the sponsoring councilmember, came from (the police chief and the city attorney’s office). They argued that the addition of the proposed offenses in our municipal code provided an opportunity for officers to speak to the city prosecutor about the nuances regarding a specific case or defendant, for the Municipal Court judge to appropriately address repeat offenders, and could allow for earlier arraignment dates and a swifter process through the judicial system. What this means for you in the audience is that your police, your city attorney, your government is proactively not only on the beat, but behind the scenes, policy-wise, keeping you safe.” Barnacle went on, “The criminals (who commit theft and other crimes, and) who are found to be in possession of nearly four grams or 4,000 milligrams of fentanyl…will be held accountable. They will be prosecuted and sentenced here in Greenwood Village. It will serve as a criminal deterrent and word will spread quickly. Criminal behavior will not be tolerated in our city.”
Although Barnacle was correct that state law was changed effective in 2022 to make the theft of or from a motor vehicle that is worth less than $2,000 a misdemeanor crime instead of a felony crime, the state law making possession of less than four grams of most drugs a misdemeanor crime was actually passed over three years ago (HB19-1263). That law became effective March 1, 2020.
The general assembly acted again this year to address the many deaths tied to unknown fentanyl ingestion by Coloradans when they lowered the threshold for felony possession of fentanyl to anything over one gram when Governor Polis signed HB22-1326 on May 25, 2022.