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Criminal law: Colorado Supreme Court ruling may set hundreds free

According to a recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling, sentences of criminal defendants cannot include probation and prison time for the same case. That means that those whose sentences consist of a term of probation after time spent in prison have another chance at freedom. This ruling stunned criminal law attorneys in the Colorado judicial system, and the Office of Attorney General Phil Weiser was given a deadline to petition the court for a rehearing. 

This ruling affects all defendants whose sentences were the result of plea agreements. Authorities say 95% of all criminal case settlements involve plea deals, which means thousands of sentences might now be determined to be invalid. Jury verdicts will remain unchanged.

Those with sentences that include probation terms after serving time in prison could effectively force the prosecution to relitigate. Those who have already started their probation periods could request the court to overturn their plea deals. Defendants could go back to court to get an illegal sentence overturned and can even file motions based on claims that they were victimized by ineffective assistance of legal counsel.

Defendants in Colorado whose sentences include probation after prison time can discuss their new legal rights with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer will know the details of any changes in state statutes or criminal law procedures and can explain the available legal options. If a petition can be filed that will potentially benefit the convicted defendant, a lawyer can advocate for the client in the ensuing legal proceedings.

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