Colorado Supreme Court Announces New Rules for Awarding Presentencing Credit
Derick Wayne Russell was in community confinement following unrelated convictions in Jefferson County and Douglas County, Colorado, in December 2015 and January 2016, respectively. He was terminated from the program for a violation and taken into custody on May 26. On June 1, Jefferson County sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment, to run concurrently with his Douglas County sentence. Douglas County sentenced him on October 13 to six years’ imprisonment, also to run concurrently with his Jefferson County sentence.
At sentencing in Douglas County, the district court calculated his PSCC time, awarding him PSCC for time spent confined prior to his sentence to community corrections, the time he served in residential community corrections, and the days he spent in custody prior to his resentencing in Jefferson County. The court denied him PSCC for the period between June 1 and October 13 because, under the but-for causation test articulated in People v. Torrez, 403 P.3d 189 (Colo. 2017), he could not be awarded this time since he would not have been released from custody had he not been serving his Douglas County sentence (because his Jefferson County sentence was not complete).
Russell appealed, and the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision. But it did so while noting that it was bound by the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in Torrez, though this determination seemed to conflict with the statute regarding PSCC and the Supreme Court’s previous decision in Massey v. People, 736 P.2d 19 (Colo. 1987).
Given this apparent conflict, Russell appealed again, and the Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari, in part to clarify for courts the procedures for calculating PSCC.
The Court observed that § 18-1.3-405 of the Colorado Revised Statutes states, “A person who is confined for an offense prior to the imposition of Sentence for said offense is entitled to credit against the term of his or her sentence for the entire period of such confinement.”
The Supreme Court in Massey articulated rules for when and how this credit should be applied. However, under Massey, this was, in part, determined by geography. If a defendant was held in one county, the district court in another county could deny him PSCC at sentencing since his confinement in another county undermined the “substantial nexus” to the second county’s sentence.
The Supreme Court fixed the geography issue in Torrez but then confused the issue of PSCC by also imposing the but-for causation test. Under this test, a defendant can be denied PSCC for either of two convictions because he would not be released “but-for” either of them and would thus fail the test for both.
The Court noted that these “prior decisions applying the PSCC statute are not easy to reconcile with each other and are inconsistent with the statutory language.” In an effort to eliminate the current confusion and provide clarity going forward, the Court announced the following three principles: “First, a defendant is entitled to PSCC for each day served where there is a substantial nexus between the charge or conduct for which he is confined and the sentence that is ultimately imposed. A substantial nexus exists when the defendant would have remained confined on the charge or conduct for which credit is sought in the absence of any other charge. Second, regarding whether a substantial nexus exists, causation, not geography, is the defining question. And third, a defendant is not entitled to duplicative PSCC.”
Applying these principles, the Court concluded that Russell should be granted “additional PSCC against his Douglas County sentence for the period that he was confined after he was resentenced in Jefferson County until he was resentenced in Douglas County.”
Related legal case
Russell v. People
|462 P.3d 1092 (Colo. 2020)
|State Court of Appeals