The Issue - Habitual Offender

Habitual Criminal is also known as the three strikes law in Colorado. An individual can be convicted with two prior felonies and can face life in prison with a third.

Read the actual wording of the statute here

Let me tell you a story about a young boy name Dylan Redwine. The young man was said to have found a few photos of his dad, Mark Redwine, in drag. Mark then killed Dylan, who was only 13-years-old. A young man who was loved by his mother, Elaine Hatfield. Dylan was going to visit his father on for a court ordered visitation. 

Dylan disappeared. Mark claiming that he did not know what happened to Dylan. When truth came to light, it would be found that Mark had decapitated his own son after killing him. He disregarded his son’s body as if it meant nothing to him. 

Now why does this story mean anything to Colorado’s Habitual Criminal? My own huband, convicted of a burglary, he does not have any violent crimes, he was sentenced to 48 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections under the Habitual Criminal. Mark Redwine, convicted of murdering his own 13 year-old-son, a child, and decapitating him, Mark Redwine also got 48 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. 

Read that story again.

Does a burglary (2nd degree), mind you, my husband took nothing, he was in the wrong home, the thought he was in a friend’s home, but even if he had, does that equate to murder of your own child? And decapitating the poor baby? No one deserves that, and especially not from their parent. Never, ever, should second degree burglary carry the same sentence that a murder does.

The Baby Bitch or Little Bitch The Big Bitch
An individual is considered a habitual offender once they have two separate felonies within the last ten years. It would would be 3 times the maximum sentence. The big bitch can be given to anyone who has three felonies, being convicted of the fourth to 4 times the maximum sentence. This means that an individual who has burglary can face 48 years.
So what does this matter? How is this damaging to Colorado? Colorado and the United States both have constitutional law that is meant to protect individuals from Double Jeopardy. Double jeopardy states that an individual will not have to answer to the same crime more than once after they are convicted.

Colorado Habitual Offender does just this.

This year, 2023, a bill passed and became a law. It is HB23-1292, Enhanced Sentencing Colorado Commission On Criminal And Juvenile Justice Recommendations. In this bill, it updates the Habitual Criminal Statute, now allowing those who have been sentenced after July 1, 2023 with Habitual Criminal to be able to apply for a review after serving 10 years in Colorado Department of Corrections to see if they can get a reduction in their sentence.

Read the Bill text here that pertains to Habitual Offender

This bill is a step in the right direction but in hindsight, it does nothing new. After serving 10 years in the Department of Corrections, individuals are eligible to apply for Clemency. If that individual is denied, they can apply again in 4 years. The eligibility criteria for Clemency is as follows:

The commutation process shall be guided by the requirements set forth in C.R.S. § 16-17- 102. Reasonable, diligent efforts shall be made to contact victims of crime or their representatives. If an application is denied, the applicant is eligible to re-apply for clemency four (4) years from the date of official notification of denial.

  • Confinement
    • An offender must be housed in a CDOC facility or a facility with which CDOC contracts to house its offenders.
  • Time Served
    • An offender serving a life sentence must have served 20 calendar years. If the offender was a juvenile at the time of offense and sentenced as an adult to a life sentence, the offender must have served 10 calendar years.
    • An offender serving any other sentence must serve one-third of the actual sentence or ten (10) calendar years, whichever is less.
  • Parole Eligibility Status
    • At the time of the initiation of the commutation application an offender must have more than 12 months remaining to his/her parole eligibility date. An offender shall not be under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Board of Parole at the time of the commutation application.
    • Notwithstanding the above, an offender who is eligible for parole and has been denied parole more than three (3) times may apply for clemency.
  • Ineligibility for Commutation Review
    • An offender convicted of a Code of Penal Discipline (COPD) Class I violation may not apply for commutation until 1 year after the date of the COPD conviction.
    • An offender in Restrictive Housing is not eligible to apply for clemency consideration.
    • As mandated by the Constitution of the State of Colorado, an offender convicted of the offense of treason is not eligible for commutation consideration.
    • An offender who, while in the custody or control of CDOC, has been convicted – either criminally or administratively – of an offense involving assaultive behavior against a peace officer or staff person within the CDOC is not eligible for commutation consideration; unless reviewed and approved by CDOC personnel.
    • An offender with unresolved criminal charges that might either affect the offender’s current sentence or result in a term of imprisonment is not eligible for commutation consideration. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers are not unresolved criminal charges for purposes of commutation eligibility.
    • An offender with a pending judicial appeal or a pending reconsideration of sentence is not eligible for commutation consideration.
  • Waiver of Criteria:
    • The Governor and/or the Executive Clemency Advisory Board may grant a waiver of these criteria for any reason, including but not limited to:
      • Catastrophic medical and/or mental health issues.
      • • Highly extraordinary circumstances or unique situations, (examples include acts of heroism, youthful or advanced age of offender)
      • Severe sentence disparity
      • To further the purposes of rehabilitation
      • In the interests of justice
All waiver requests must clearly, and in detail, articulate the reasons why waiver should be considered. Waiver requests shall be submitted to the Office of Executive Clemency.

So while this bill may help some who would not be eligible for clemency due to COPD or another reason, it is essentially the same thing. I hope that in the future there is more to come for the Habitual Criminal Statute and that it does truly provide real relief and aid to the incarcerated individual and their family.