PARKER MUNICIPAL COURT'S UNCONSTITUTIONAL DENIAL OF A CITIZEN'S JURY TRIAL RIGHT
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
If you have been charged with Careless Driving in Parker Municipal Court, Please review the following:
The Town of Parker is a Home Rule Municipality organized pursuant to Art. XX, Section 6 of the Colorado Constitution and the Municipal Home Rule Act of 1971. Although home rule municipalities have a vast amount of discretion when legislating matters of purely local concern, this legislative discretion is limited in matters deemed statewide or mixed local and statewide concern. City of Greenwood Village on Behalf of the State v. Fleming, 643 P.2d 511 (Colo. 1982); Canon City v. Merris, 323 P.2d 614 (Colo. 1958).
STATE COUNTERPART RULE
Specifically, the Town of Parker may not decriminalize a matter which the state counterpart statue provides as a crime. Fleming, (citing Merris), supra, at 515; Zerobnick v. City and County of Denver, 337 P.2d 11 (1959). “City of Canon City v. Merris, 137 Colo. 169, 323 P.2d 614, laid down the rule that violation of an ordinance which is the counterpart of a criminal statue should be tried and punished under the protections applicable to criminal cases even though prosecuted in a municipal court.” Zerobnick at 14. This limitation referred to as the “counterpart” rule is a firmly held and longtime limitation on the authority of home rule municipalities ability to legislate in matters in which there is a state criminal counterpart.
CARELESS DRIVING C.R.S. 42-4-1402 IS A CRIMINAL TRAFFIC OFFENSE
The State of Colorado criminalizes conduct constituting Careless Driving. “A person who drives a motor vehicle … in a careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances, is guilty of careless driving.” C.R.S. 42-4-1402. A violation of this section constitutes a Class 2 Misdemeanor Traffic Offense. The criminal punishment is more severe in cases in which there is bodily injury and or death. A conviction for careless driving is punishable by up to ninety (90) days in jail and or a $300.00 fine. Additionally, a conviction results in four (4) points being assessed against the offender’s driving record. There is no dispute Careless Driving as provided by the State is a criminal violation and there is a right to a jury trial. C.R.S. 42-4-1402, C.R.S.; see generally, City of Aurora v. Rhodes, 689 P.2d 603 (Colo. 1984).
TOWN OF PARKER HAS "DECRIMINALIZED" CARELESS DRIVING SO THAT THEY MAY DENY THE MOTORIST THE RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL AND ASSESS MONETARY FINES TO UNJUSTLY ENRICH THE TOWN.
The Town of Parker adopted the 2010 Model Traffic Code. PMC (Parker Municipal Code) Section 7.01.020. “A person who drives a motor vehicle … in a careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances, is guilty of careless driving.” Model Traffic Code Section 1402. This is exactly the same conduct as proscribed or prohibited by the State Statute 42-4-1402. Additionally, four (4) points are assessed against the offender’s diving record.
In adopting Section 1402 of the Model Traffic Code, the Town of Parker asserts that “[u]nder the Parker Municipal Code, the charge of careless driving is a non-criminal traffic infraction for which the maximum penalty is a fine of four hundred ninety-nine dollars ($499.00).” In other words, the Town of Parker has adopted Careless Driving but has attempted to decriminalize the conduct (the mens rea alone is a criminal culpable state). If decriminalized, the Town of Parker asserts that persons cited with Careless Driving in their municipal court do not have the right to a jury trial.
This is in direct conflict with the state counterpart rule which has been around since 1958. City of Greenwood Village on Behalf of the State v. Fleming, 643 P.2d 511 (Colo. 1982); Canon City v. Merris, 323 P.2d 614 (Colo. 1958).
THE TOWN OF PARKER MUNICIPAL COURT AND PROSECUTOR'S ACTIONS IN DEPRIVING MOTORISTS OF THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT AMOUNTS TO THEFT.
Since 2018, the Municipal Court and Municipal Prosecutor have denied motorist's right to a jury trial in 1330 cases (this information is directly from the Town Court Administrator). They have assessed theses motorists thousands of dollars since 2018.
The above is the opinion of the author.
If you have been charged with Careless Driving or any other offense in the Parker, Colorado, Municipal Court, call Rob Werking, LFM Defense, Denver's Premier Criminal Defense Law Firm.