Flakes v. People

Citation153 P.3d 427
Decision Date26 February 2007
Docket NumberNo. 05SC593.,05SC593.
PartiesGary Lavon FLAKES, Petitioner v. The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

Appellate Division, Criminal Justice Section, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondent.

Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Andrew C. Heher, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Colorado State Public Defender.

Marsha L. Levick, Laval Miller-Wilson, Vincent Herman, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Attorneys for Amici Curiae Juvenile Law Center, National Juvenile Defender Center, Center on Children and Families, Southern Juvenile Defender Center, Pendulum Juvenile Justice, Northeast Juvenile Defender Center, The Center for Children's Law and Policy, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Justice MARTINEZ delivered the Opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to consider the constitutionality of section 19-2-517 of the Colorado Revised Statutes—the direct file statute within the Children's Code. Petitioner Gary Flakes ("Flakes") asserts that the sentencing provisions of the direct file statute require an adult sentence under the circumstances of his case and violate the constitutional doctrines of equal protection, due process, uniformity of the laws, and separation of powers.

The direct file statute authorizes a prosecutor to charge a juvenile as an adult by filing certain enumerated charges directly in district court.1 The parties agree that even though the direct file statute does not expressly authorize direct filing of charges not enumerated by the direct file statute, unenumerated charges may nonetheless be brought together with enumerated charges in a single prosecution. They disagree, however, as to whether the statute mandates an adult sentence where a juvenile is acquitted of the enumerated offenses but convicted of unenumerated offenses. We hold that the district court has the discretion to sentence a juvenile as an adult or as a juvenile when found guilty of unenumerated charges. We also hold that the direct file statute is constitutional. Because in Flakes' case it is unclear whether the district court exercised the discretion to decide whether to sentence Flakes as a juvenile before sentencing him as an adult, and because the district court did not make findings before imposing an adult sentence, we remand for re-sentencing consistent with this opinion.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Gary Flakes, a juvenile, was charged as an adult in district court with two counts of first-degree murder (after deliberation),2 two counts of first-degree murder (extreme indifference to human life),3 and two counts of accessory to murder after the fact.4 The El Paso District Attorney's office bypassed the juvenile courts and filed an information directly in district court under section 19-2-517, the direct file statute. The first-degree murder counts formed the jurisdictional basis for the District Attorney's decision to file the information directly in district court.5 Though the direct file statute does not authorize the direct filing of accessory to murder charges, they were brought together with the murder charges under the judicially created theory of ancillary jurisdiction.

The charges arose out of a 1997 incident in which another juvenile, Jeron Grant, killed two young boys after he threatened them with a shotgun. Grant pointed the shotgun at the boys and pulled the trigger; he shot one boy in the neck, killing him. The second boy turned to run and Grant shot him in the back of the head, then shot again, killing him as well. Grant returned to his car, where Flakes was sitting, and drove away. Flakes was sixteen years old.

At trial, Flakes asserted they were simply joking around and only meant to scare the boys, not kill them. A jury convicted Flakes of one count of criminally negligent homicide6 and two counts of accessory to murder after the fact, but it found Flakes not guilty of the first-degree murder charges that permitted him to be tried as an adult.

The district court imposed an adult sentence. The record is not clear as to whether the court believed it had discretion to enter a juvenile sentence: "I considered the factors with regard to sentencing [Flakes] as an adult and juvenile. And I simply find that the nature of the offense—I'm talking about the offense[s] [Flakes was] found guilty of . . . do not allow that." Flakes was sentenced in the aggravated range to twelve years in prison for each count of accessory to murder, running concurrently. The court also sentenced Flakes to three years in prison for the criminally negligent homicide, to run consecutive with the twelve year sentence, for a total of sixteen years in the department of corrections. Grant, also tried as an adult, was convicted of two counts of accessory to murder and was sentenced to prison for two concurrent twelve year terms.

After the court of appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence in People v. Flakes, No. 99CA0924 (Colo.App. Nov. 30, 2000) (not selected for publication), Flakes filed a post-conviction motion with the district court pro se, challenging the legality of his sentence. In that motion, Flakes argued that his adult sentence was illegal because he was eligible for a juvenile sentence. His post-conviction counsel abandoned Flakes' original claim and instead argued that the district court failed to consider youthful offender sentencing. The district court denied Flakes' argument that he was eligible for a youthful offender sentence. Flakes appealed, adding the constitutional challenges we now face.

The court of appeals affirmed the district court's original sentence and declined to review the constitutional challenges because Flakes had not directly raised them in district court. People v. Flakes, No. 04CA1156, slip op. at 24 (Colo.App. June 30, 2005) (not selected for publication). Flakes petitioned for certiorari and we granted review of his constitutional challenges to the direct file statute.

Though the People urge us to dismiss the case as improvidently granted, and assert Flakes failed to raise his issues below, Flakes' pro se challenge to the legality of his sentence is sufficient to justify our review in this case. We begin our examination of the constitutionality of the direct file statute with an overview of Colorado's juvenile justice system and its evolution. Informed by this history, we next turn our attention to the direct file statute itself. Our discussion then focuses on the district court's jurisdiction to hear and impose sentence when a juvenile is guilty of unenumerated offenses. We also consider the statutory requirements for imposing a sentence on a juvenile guilty of unenumerated charges. Finally, we briefly address Flakes' constitutional challenges in light of our construction of the direct file statute.

II. The Children's Code

Our task is to interpret and understand the intended meaning of the direct file statute. See People v. Luther, 58 P.3d 1013, 1015 (Colo.2002). Direct filing subjects certain juveniles to adult criminal prosecution and sentencing, based on age and the nature of the allegations. § 19-2-517. The Children's Code7 is designed to take into consideration the best interests of the juvenile, the victim, and the community, while holding public safety paramount. § 19-2-102, C.R.S. (2006). In contrast, the direct file statute, located within the Children's Code, exposes juveniles to adult criminal prosecution without a transfer hearing and creates an exception to the general protections offered to juveniles by the Code. Therefore, to properly understand the direct file statute as an exception to the Children's Code's purpose and intent, we begin by reviewing the Code and its history. See Martin v. People, 27 P.3d 846, 851 (Colo.2001) (quoting Charnes v. Boom, 766 P.2d 665, 667 (Colo.1988)) (looking to the statutory scheme as a whole when interpreting a statute).

Over one hundred years ago, Colorado became one of the first states in the country to create a separate juvenile justice system.8 The purpose was to separate juvenile offenders from adult offenders by creating a special system for the appropriate sanctioning of juveniles who violate the law. King, Colorado Juvenile Court History at 63.

In 1889, Colorado created a youthful correctional institution in Buena Vista for male persons between the ages of sixteen and thirty who were convicted of crimes punishable by a term not less than ninety days. S.B. 169, 1889 Sess. Laws 418, 420; People v. Green, 734 P.2d 616, 618 (Colo.1987). Ten years later, the General Assembly enacted a compulsory education law which, for the first time, granted exclusive jurisdiction to county courts to hear and determine complaints brought by truant officers against "juvenile disorderly person[s]." Act of Apr. 12, 1899 Colo. Sess. Laws 340, 344. This same law treated children between the ages of eight and fourteen, fourteen and sixteen, and older than sixteen years old differently, and it subjected them to different treatment.9 Thus, from the beginning of our juvenile justice system, Colorado has differentiated among minors according to age generally and differentiated sixteen year old minors specifically.

In 1903, Colorado established its first formal juvenile justice system. King, Colorado Juvenile Court History at 64. The county courts were vested with exclusive jurisdiction over all cases where any child sixteen years of age or less was arrested for any violation of law. Act of Mar. 7, 1903 Colo. Sess. Laws 178, 182; 1903 Colo. Gen. Laws § 422 (hereinafter Act of 1903). In 1907, a separate juvenile court was created as a court of record and was granted original and exclusive jurisdiction over all criminal cases involving...

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  • People ex rel. T.B.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Colorado
    • June 28, 2021
    ...... See § 19-2-905, C.R.S. (2020) (requiring presentence investigation to address a number of factors, including the child's family, peer relationships, drug use, and criminal history); Flakes v. People, 153 P.3d 427, 432 (Colo. 2007) ("The purpose [of Colorado's juvenile justice system is] to separate juvenile offenders from adult offenders by creating a special system for the appropriate sanctioning of juveniles who violate the law."). Indeed, our juvenile justice system is premised ......
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