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April 14, 2023

House Moves to Protect Miranda Rights, Streamline Access to Justice

DENVER, CO - The House today advanced legislation on a preliminary vote to codify Miranda Rights and access to legal representation, as well as streamline services for people on parole or probation that reduce recidivism.

"The right against self-incrimination is fundamental in our U.S. and state constitutions," said Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, sponsor of HB23-1155.  "But we don't require Coloradans to be legal experts to benefit from their constitutional protections, which is why we’ve required law enforcement officers to notify people of their Fifth Amendment rights for over 50 years.  This is a straightforward bill that continues protections for Coloradans under custody and holds law enforcement to the standards that make our criminal justice system more transparent and just."

“After the Supreme Court’s decision in Vega v. Tekoh, it was clear that our state needed to step up to guarantee Coloradans’ rights will be protected,” said Rep. Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver, sponsor of HB23-1155. “The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from self-incrimination and allows them to seek counsel from an attorney to guide them through the legal process. These standardized protections are paramount in preventing the most vulnerable Coloradans, who are innocent until proven guilty, from accidentally incriminating themselves.”

In 2022, a Supreme Court decision determined that law enforcement officers could not be sued for a constitutional violation if they failed to administer Miranda warnings, even when they were required to by law. This decision put the responsibility on states to guarantee that people under interrogation for crime are aware of their Fifth Amendment rights before any statements are used against them in court. HB23-1155 would codify Miranda Rights in Colorado law.

“Barriers to accessing legal representation prevent Colorado individuals and small businesses from seeking justice for wrongdoing,” said Rep. Junie Joseph, D-Boulder, sponsor of HB23-1280. “Coloradans face legal issues like divorce, protection orders, and medical malpractice but often can’t afford to hire an attorney, leading to life-altering consequences. We’re enshrining access to legal representation so Coloradans can have their day in court, no matter what your income is.”

HB23-1280, also sponsored by Representative Matt Soper, codifies the Colorado Access to Justice Commission into state law to improve access, quality, and fairness in the Colorado justice system. The Colorado Access to Justice Commission is a non-profit organization that provides legal support for Coloradans and advocates for policy changes that make it easier for Coloradans to navigate the criminal justice system.

“When people come to Colorado with court-ordered treatment to help them rehabilitate from past criminal activity, they have to jump through hoops before they qualify for and receive their necessary services,” said Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, sponsor of HB23-1268. “This bill streamlines administrative requirements so people can more easily access resources like substance use and behavioral health treatment. Connecting people to the treatment they need promotes public safety and helps individuals address their mental health needs.”

HB23-1268, also sponsored by Representative Gabe Evans, streamlines access to treatment for people who were involved in the criminal justice system in other states. Under current Colorado law, any person who is serving an out-of-state probation or parole is required to get a criminal background check, fingerprints, and photographs through the Department of Corrections before they can receive court-ordered treatment services. While the background check is only supposed to take 48 hours, they often take weeks to process, keeping patients from accessing the services they need to address issues from mental health disorders, substance use disorder, and support for domestic violence treatment.

This bill requires background checks to be completed within 48 hours to shorten waiting times to qualify for life-saving and necessary treatments. It would allow treatment providers to initiate care with individuals on probation or parole who comply with their supervision and have checked-in with law enforcement, giving individuals access to the life saving care they need immediately while also protecting public safety. 

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