Noteworthy Colorado Cases in Victims' Rights

RMvlc's Response to Denver Post Editorial



People v. Spykstra, 234 P.3d 662 (Colo. 2010)

District Attorney Standing to Move to Quash or Modify Unreasonable or Oppressive Subpoenas

In Spykstra, a District Attorney appealed the trial court's denial of the District Attorney's motion to quash two defense subpoenas for documents served upon the parents of an adolescent victim in a sexual assault case. The defense subpoenas allowed for a defense expert to enter the victim's parents' home and search the home computer for all emails from the victim throughout a six and a half year time period, whether or not related to the allegations of the sexual assault case. The Colorado Supreme Court found that the District Attorney had standing to move to quash the subpoenas because the prosecution had "an independent interest in ensuring the propriety of the subpoenas." The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's ruling, ordering the trial court to quash the defense subpoena. The Colorado Supreme Court held:

"In this child sexual assault case, the supreme court finds that the District Attorney has standing to challenge the defendant's Crim. P. 17(c) pretrial subpoenas duces tecum served on the victim's parents. The court also holds that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering enforcement of the defendant's subpoenas (1) by converting the subpoenas into the functional equivalent of a search warrant when it ordered the parents to allow the defendant's expert into their home to search their computer for emails written by the victim and (2) by failing to require the defendant to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the emails existed and were relevant and evidentiary.

In keeping with its limited purposes, Crime. P. 17(c) expressly contemplates production of evidence by a subpoenaed witness in court, not search and seizure of the witness's property by a defendant or her representative. Addressing Crim. P. 17(c)'s limitation against unreasonable or oppressive subpoenas, the supreme court adopts a test substantially similar to that employed in United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 699-700 (1974). Because the defendant failed to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the emails she sought existed on the parents' computer and were relevant and evidentiary, the trial court erred in denying the motion to quash. The supreme court makes absolute the rule to show cause and directs the trial court to quash the subpoenas duces tecum served upon the victim's parents."

People v. Disher, 224 P.3d 254 (Colo. 2010)

Evidence of a sexual relationship is not necessary to establish the existence of an intimate relationship when applying the domestic violence statute.

Under Colorado's Domestic Violence statutes, the perpetrator of a crime and his or her victim must be, or have been, in an "intimate relationship" for the crime to constitute domestic violence.  See C.R.S. § 18-6-800.3 (2009).  In Disher, the Colorado Supreme Court held that evidence of a sexual relationship is not necessary to establish the existence of an intimate relationship for the purpose of the domestic violence statute. The Court held that intimate relationships can be sexual, but they need not be. To impose a domestic violence sentence enhancer, a court must find that an intimate relationship exists or existed between the perpetrator and the victim, and a court should consider such factors as the length of time the relationship existed, the type of relationship, and frequency of interaction between the parties. In Disher, the supreme court reversed the lower court’s refusal to order a domestic violence sentence enhancer after the defendant was convicted of harassing a woman with whom he had an exclusive dating relationship.

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