Martin v. People, No. 99SC602.

Citation27 P.3d 846
Case DateJune 25, 2001
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

27 P.3d 846

Vance MARTIN, Petitioner,
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondents

No. 99SC602.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.

June 25, 2001.

Rehearing Denied July 23, 2001.

27 P.3d 847
Nancy L. Flax, Denver, CO, Attorney for Petitioner

Ken Salazar, Attorney General, Dawn M. Weber, Assistant Attorney General, Alan J. Gilbert, Solicitor General, Robert M. Russel, Assistant Solicitor General, Appellate Division, Criminal Justice Section, Denver, CO, Attorneys for Respondent.

Jessica L. West, Denver, CO, Amicus Curiae for Colorado Defense Bar (CDB).

Justice MARTINEZ delivered the Opinion of the Court.

In this case we consider whether the court of appeals erred by affirming the trial court's

27 P.3d 848
denial of the defendant's Crim. P. 35(c) motion, and holding that a defendant convicted of a sexual assault occurring in July 1993 is subject to a mandatory five-year period of parole in addition to a period of incarceration. People v. Martin, 987 P.2d 919 (Colo. App.1999). The focus of our inquiry is on the effect of several changes by the General Assembly to sections 17-2-201(5), 6 C.R.S. (1999), 17-22.5-403, 6 C.R.S. (1999), and 18-1-105(1), 6 C.R.S. (1999) in 1993 and 1996.1

We conclude that these statutes conflict and cannot be reconciled. Since 1979, two sentencing systems have been in effect in Colorado: one addresses sex offenders and one addresses all other offenders. Parole for sex offenders has never been automatic or mandatory as it sometimes has been for all other offenders. Rather, the parole board retains the discretion or authority to decide if and when a sex offender will be paroled.

When this defendant was sentenced to prison in 1997 for committing a sex offense in 1993, two conflicting laws applied to his term of parole. Legislation enacted in 1996 amended and reenacted the traditional separate sentencing system for sex offenders. The 1996 act, by its express terms, applied to sex offenders like the defendant who committed such crimes in 1993, and limited the length of a sex offender's parole to the balance of the offender's prison sentence or five years, whichever was less.

The conflicting law, enacted in 1993, neither repealed nor amended the separate parole scheme for sex offenders. Instead, this law applied a five-year mandatory parole period to sex offenders to be served after completing the term of imprisonment. The 1996 legislation did not resolve the conflict created by the 1993 law which provided for a discretionary grant of parole by the parole board. Our review of the legislative history reveals that some legislators were aware of the confusion and conflict in the two laws.

Given this lack of direction, we resolve the conflict by applying the principle that the more specific statute must prevail over the more general statute. To find that the 1993 statute prevailed, we would have to find that the legislature implicitly repealed the separate statutory sentencing system for sex offenders. This we cannot do because repeals by implication are not favored and the 1996 act expressly addresses this issue. It states that the separate sentencing for sex offenders was in effect when this crime was committed in 1993 and continued to be in effect when the 1996 act was passed. Faced with this explicit statement by the legislature, we cannot read a contrary result into the law.

It is for the legislature, not the courts, to decide what laws best serve the public interest, and the various laws at issue here indicate some of the differing and evolving views on parole. Whether parole for sex offenders should be mandatory or discretionary is a legislative decision that we do not second guess. Many sex offenders receive lengthy sentences and discretionary parole allows the parole board to keep a sex offender incarcerated for the duration of the entire sentence. On the other hand, a sex offender who receives a relatively short sentence, as is illustrated here, may serve little or no time on parole under a grant of discretionary parole.

We hold that, under the statutes in effect when the defendant was sentenced, a person convicted of a sexual offense committed before July 1, 1996, is subject to a period of discretionary parole no longer than the remainder of the maximum sentence of incarceration imposed by the court or five years, whichever period of time is shorter.

In this case, the defendant was sentenced to a four-year period of incarceration and erroneously given five years of mandatory parole. The maximum period of parole, therefore, to which he may rightfully have been subject could not have exceeded four years. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals' judgment affirming the district court's denial of the defendant's Crim. P. 35(c) motion.


The defendant, Vance Martin (Martin), pleaded guilty in January 1994 to sexual

27 P.3d 849
assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, in violation of section 18-3-405.3(2), 6 C.R.S. (1997). The offense occurred between July 1 and July 31, 1993. The defendant initially was given a suspended sentence of six years of imprisonment and five years of probation. After two probation violations, Martin entered into a plea bargain in May 1997 and was sentenced to four years of imprisonment plus a five-year term of mandatory parole

In February 1998, the defendant filed a pro se Crim. P. 35(c) motion for post-conviction relief. He alleged, in addition to other claims, that imposition of the parole term under the plea bargain was invalid under section 17-2-201(5)(a). The district court summarily denied the motion. Martin appealed the district court's denial of his 35(c) motion to the court of appeals, which affirmed the district court's judgment. See People v. Martin, 987 P.2d at 928. We granted Martin's petition for writ of certiorari to determine whether, pursuant to section 17-2-201(5)(a), the district court erroneously imposed a mandatory five-year parole term for the 1993 sexual assault offense. We now reverse the judgment of the court of appeals.


To analyze this case, we begin with an explication of the legislative history concerning parole. Because of the numerous changes that have been made to the laws surrounding parole in the past two decades, our interpretation of the statutes is multi-faceted and complex. Thus, to begin, we set forth the history of the many legislative changes in an attempt to clarify the confusing situation.


Section 17-2-201, 6 C.R.S. (2000), governs the creation of the state board of parole (board) and delineates the board's powers. This section evolved from section 39-18-1, 16 C.R.S. (1971), in which the board received the sole power to grant, or refuse to grant, parole and to fix the condition of such parole. Additionally, the parole board had "full discretion to set the duration of the term of parole granted, but in no event ... [could] the term of parole exceed the maximum sentence imposed upon the inmate by the court." § 39-18-1(4). In 1976, this section underwent renumbering, and appeared as section 17-1-201(4). In 1977, it was again renumbered when Title 17 was repealed and reenacted with amendments, and appeared in its current location, § 17-2-201(5)(a). See ch. 223, sec. 10, Title 17, 1977 Colo. Sess. Laws 894, 903-49. The language of the section, however, did not change. See id.

In 1979, the legislature amended the felony sentencing scheme, creating "presumptive ranges of penalties" as guidelines for the court to order a specific term of imprisonment. The changes also mandated the release of most convicted offenders to a one-year period of parole once such offenders accumulated the appropriate number of "good" and "earned" time credits. See ch. 157, sec. 10, § 16-11-310, 1979 Colo. Sess. Laws 662, 666; ch. 157, sec. 16, § 18-1-105, 1979 Colo. Sess. Laws 669, 669-70. Even for those offenders who violated the terms of parole and thus had their parole revoked, the period of reincarceration and reparole were limited by the requirement that they not exceed one year. See ch. 157, sec. 14, § 17-22.5-103, 1979 Colo. Sess. Laws 662, 667-68.

In the same year, the General Assembly provided for a one-year period of parole for most offenders, it also amended section 17-2-201(5)(a), adding language stating that the state board of parole had full discretion to set parole for sex offenders.2 Ch. 157, sec. 12, § 17-2-201(5)(a), 1979 Colo. Sess. Laws 662, 667. This new amendment also added a five-year limitation to its requirement that the

27 P.3d 850
period of parole not exceed the maximum sentence imposed, stating, "in no event shall the term of parole exceed the maximum sentence imposed upon the inmate by the court or five years, whichever is less." Id. (emphasis in original)


In 1985 the General Assembly again amended article 22.5 of Title 17, returning discretion of parole for all offenders to the state board of parole. Ch. 145, sec. 4, § 17-22.5-303(6), 1985 Colo. Sess. Laws 647, 648-49. Then, in 1990, article 22.5 was amended yet again, this time removing the concept of good time, changing the requirements for parole eligibility, and significantly amending the rules dealing with parole revocation. Ch. 120, sec. 19, § 17-22.X-XXX-XXX, 1990 Colo. Sess. Laws 939, 946-52. Thereafter, regulation of parole remained relatively unchanged until 1993 when the General Assembly adopted a scheme of mandatory parole for convicted felons. See ch. 322, sec. 7, § 18-1-105(1)(a)(V), 1993 Colo. Sess. Laws 1975, 1981-82.

Under the new scheme of mandatory parole, the legislature adopted section 18-1-105(1)(a)(V), which detailed the length of mandatory periods of parole for felons, basing the length of the parole periods on the class of felony for which the individual was convicted. Id. Accordingly, the length of prison terms and parole terms became separate components of the penalty imposed by the court. Each penalty included not only a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
147 cases
  • People v. Boyd
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • August 13, 2015 that general provision, carving out a special niche from the general rules to accommodate a specific circumstance." Martin v. People, 27 P.3d 846, 852 (Colo.2001). The court also pointed out that by having the specific provision prevail over the general, both provisions can still exist; ......
  • Planned Parenthood of Rocky Mountains v. Owens, 00-1385.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • April 17, 2002
    ...irreconcilably conflict, then the later, more specific statute prevails. See Colo.Rev. Stat. §§ 2-4-205, -206; see also Martin v. People, 27 P.3d 846, 852 (Colo.2001) (en banc). The PNA is more specific than the Children's Code provisions because it addresses the specific issue of parental ......
  • People v. Houser, 09CA2147.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • April 18, 2013
    ...750. 2. Law ¶ 16 When construing a statute, a court's primary goal is to effectuate the intent of the General Assembly. Martin v. People, 27 P.3d 846, 851 (Colo.2001). This requires both “read[ing] and consider[ing the statute] as a whole and ... giv[ing] consistent, harmonious, and sensibl......
  • People v. Godinez, Court of Appeals No. 14CA0505
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • December 13, 2018
    ...statutory provisions prevail over general statutory provisions, as set forth in section 2-4-205, C.R.S. 2018, and Martin v. People , 27 P.3d 846, 851 (Colo. 2001), the supreme court resolved this conflict by concluding that ameliorative legislative amendments must be applied retroactively t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT