People v. Holmes, No. 97SA200

Docket NºNo. 97SA200
Citation959 P.2d 406
Case DateMay 26, 1998
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

Page 406

959 P.2d 406
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Thomas Michael HOLMES, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 97SA200.
Supreme Court of Colorado,
En Banc.
May 26, 1998.

Page 408

Frank J. Daniels, District Attorney, Twenty-First Judicial District, Vincent J. Felletter, Jr., Deputy District Attorney, Grand Junction, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

William H. Kain, Grand Junction, for Defendant-Appellee.

Justice MARTINEZ delivered the Opinion of the Court.

The People appeal an order of the Mesa County District Court dismissing the prosecution of Thomas M. Holmes. The People charged Holmes with the unlawful introduction of contraband into the Mesa County Detention Facility in violation of section 18-8-204(2)(l), 6 C.R.S. (1997). Holmes moved to dismiss the charge, asserting that section 18-8-204(2)(l), on its face, violates the Colorado Constitution because it constitutes an impermissible delegation by the General Assembly of its legislative powers to administrative heads of detention facilities. The trial court agreed with this contention and granted Holmes's motion to dismiss.

We affirm the judgment of the trial court, but on grounds different from those employed by that court. We hold that section 18-8-204(2)(l ) is constitutional on its face. We also hold, however, that the Mesa County Detention Facility failed to comply with the notice requirements of that statute. Thus, we affirm the trial court's order of dismissal.

I.

Holmes is an attorney practicing in Mesa County. The People allege that on July 11, 1996, Holmes went to the Mesa County Detention Facility ("MCDF") to visit David Tafoya, an MCDF inmate who was a client of Holmes. According to an MCDF employee, she searched Holmes's briefcase prior to his entry into a secured area of the facility and discovered cigarettes, matches and two cigarette lighters. The employee, after advising Holmes that he was not allowed to take these items into the facility, temporarily confiscated the items. The MCDF employee did not provide Holmes with the reason behind the MCDF's prohibition of the items.

According to the People, Holmes again visited Tafoya at the MCDF on July 22, 1996. The People allege that, after meeting with Holmes, Tafoya was found in possession of a legal envelope bearing the name of Holmes's law firm. According to the People, an MCDF deputy searched the envelope and discovered a plastic bag containing cigarettes and a book of matches. Tafoya stated that he found the bag on the floor of the visitation room. The People claim that the last attorney-client visit occurred over five hours prior to Holmes's visit with Tafoya, and that MCDF officials observed no cigarettes or matches in the visitation room prior to Holmes's visit.

On August 29, 1996, the People charged Holmes with introducing contraband into the detention facility on July 22, in violation of section 18-8-204 (the "Contraband Statute"). In relevant part, the Contraband Statute provides that "a person commits introducing contraband in the second degree if he knowingly

Page 409

and unlawfully ... introduces or attempts to introduce contraband into a detention facility." § 18-8-204(1)(a). In addition to listing specific items that are contraband for purposes of the statute, the statute defines contraband as "[a]ny article or thing that poses or may pose a threat to the security of the detention facility as determined by the administrative head of the detention facility if reasonable notice is given that such article or thing is contraband." § 18-8-204(2)(l). By the terms of the statute, the "reasonable notice" requirement applies only to those items of contraband described in section 18-8-204(2)(l), and not to the items listed in section 18-8-204(2)(a)-(k).

On February 10, 1997, Holmes moved to dismiss the charge. In his motion, Holmes argued, inter alia, that the Contraband Statute impermissibly delegates legislative power to the administrative heads of detention facilities. More specifically, Holmes asserted that the Contraband Statute gives an administrative head "unbridled authority to declare conduct criminal" in violation of the Colorado Constitution as interpreted by this court. Holmes also contended that the administrative head of the MCDF did not determine that cigarettes and matches pose or may pose a security threat as required by the Contraband Statute. Finally, Holmes argued that the MCDF did not provide reasonable notice that cigarettes and matches are contraband under the statute.

On May 31, 1997, the trial court granted Holmes's motion to dismiss. The trial court held that the Contraband Statute is unconstitutional on its face because it does not provide sufficient standards and safeguards to prevent the "unreasonable exercise of discretionary power" by the administrative heads of detention facilities. The trial court ruled that, because it allows an administrative head to declare an item contraband under the statute upon determining only that the item "may pose" a security risk, the Contraband Statute is "virtually standardless since ... virtually anything 'may pose' a risk." Furthermore, the trial court found it significant that "[t]here is no uniformity with respect to what is permitted from one facility to another, and no uniformity with regard to the notice that is given from facility to facility" because "the determination under the contraband statute is not made on a state-wide basis."

Thus, the trial court concluded that "the lack of specificity in the legislative standards coupled with the lack of administrative standards and safeguards" rendered the Contraband Statute an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. The People now appeal the trial court's order pursuant to section 16-12-102(1), 6 C.R.S. (1997), and section 13-4-102, 5 C.R.S. (1997). Although we disagree with the trial court's analysis, we affirm its judgment. See generally State v. Franc, 165 Colo. 69, 76, 437 P.2d 48, 51 (1968) ("[W]hen the trial court enters a correct judgment for the wrong reason we will nevertheless affirm it."); People v. Hilton, 902 P.2d 883, 887 (Colo.App.1995) ("A correct decision will not be disturbed upon review even though the reason for the decision may appear to be incorrect.").

II.

The Colorado Constitution divides the powers of government into three departments: the legislative, executive and judicial. See Colo. Const. art. III. The constitution provides that "no persons or collection of persons charged with the exercise of powers belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any power properly belonging to either of the others, except as in this constitution expressly directed or permitted." Colo. Const. art. III; see also People v. Lowrie, 761 P.2d 778, 780-81 (Colo.1988). The constitution vests the legislative power of the state in the General Assembly. See Colo. Const. art. V, § 1. The "nondelegation doctrine," rooted in the constitutional separation of powers, prohibits the General Assembly from delegating the legislative power to another department of government or person. See Lowrie, 761 P.2d at 781.

However, the reach of the nondelegation doctrine is limited by the fact that "[r]egulation through administrative agencies is an accepted part of our legal system." Swisher v. Brown, 157 Colo. 378, 387, 402 P.2d 621, 626 (1965). The General Assembly does not improperly delegate its legislative

Page 410

power "when it describes what job must be done, who must do it, and the scope of his authority." Swisher, 157 Colo. at 388, 402 P.2d at 626; see also Lowrie, 761 P.2d at 781.

In the context of a criminal statute, the nondelegation doctrine requires a closer examination of the legislature's actions. See People v. Lepik, 629 P.2d 1080 (Colo.1981); Casey v. People, 139 Colo. 89, 336 P.2d 308 (1959). In Lepik, we held:

It is a fundamental principle that only the General Assembly may declare an act to be a crime and that power may not be delegated to persons not elected by nor responsible to the People. Although the power to make a law may not be delegated, the power to determine a state of facts upon which the law depends may be delegated.... The General Assembly must prescribe sufficient safeguards by which the power delegated is to be exercised; otherwise, the delegation of power is invalid as violative of the separation of powers.

629 P.2d at 1082 (citations omitted). We carefully scrutinize a statutory scheme that establishes criminal penalties for violation of administrative rules because such a delegation implicates an important liberty interest, including the right to reasonable notice of that conduct deemed criminal. See Lowrie, 761 P.2d at 781. A statute must prescribe standards sufficient to guide and to circumscribe an administrative officer's authority to declare conduct criminal.

In Cottrell v. City & County of Denver, we explained that, in addition to a review of statutory standards and safeguards, the nondelegation doctrine analysis may include a review of administrative standards and safeguards. 636 P.2d 703, 708-10 (Colo.1981). If a court determines that the statutory standards and safeguards are inadequate to prevent the unfettered exercise of discretionary power by an administrator, the court should then determine whether "additional administrative standards and safeguards accomplish the necessary protection from arbitrary action." Id. at 710. If the statutory standards and safeguards provide this protection, however, a court need not proceed to examine any administrative standards or safeguards which may be in place.

In accord with the principles described above, we now examine the constitutionality of the Contraband Statute.

III.

In reviewing the actions of the General Assembly, we presume that a statute comports with constitutional standards. See People v. Janousek, 871 P.2d 1189, 1195 (Colo.1994); People v. Longoria, 862 P.2d 266, 270 (Colo.1993). The party challenging a statute on...

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50 practice notes
  • State v. Rhine, No. PD-0912-08.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • September 23, 2009
    ...at 205, 484 P.2d at 625 (pollution standards); Curry, 279 Ark. at 159-60, 649 S.W.2d at 837 (controlled substances act); People v. Holmes, 959 P.2d 406, 412 (Colo. 1998) (contraband at a detention facility); Avatar Dev. Corp., 723 So.2d at 207 (pollution control and prevention); Kellogg, 98......
  • People v. McCullough, No. 99SA317.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 3, 2000
    ...we presume that a statute comports with constitutional standards. See People v. Martinez, 970 P.2d 469, 472 (Colo.1998); People v. Holmes, 959 P.2d 406, 410 The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article II, section 7 of the Colorado Constitution proscribe all unreasonab......
  • Wainscott v. Centura Health Corp., Court of Appeals No. 13CA0995
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • August 14, 2014
    ...we are aware of no such authority. Centura had no duty to inform the Wainscotts that it intended to obey the law. Cf. People v. Holmes, 959 P.2d 406, 414 (Colo.1998) (“ ‘Based on the notion that the law is definite and knowable, the common law presumed that every person knew the law.’ ” (qu......
  • People v. Cisneros, Court of Appeals No. 09CA2717
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • April 24, 2014
    ...not supply adequate standards for those enforcing it in order to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. See People v. Holmes, 959 P.2d 406, 414 (Colo.1998). ¶ 45 Section 18–18–407(1)(f) requires a finding that the defendant “used, displayed, possessed or had available for use, a ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
50 cases
  • State v. Rhine, No. PD-0912-08.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • September 23, 2009
    ...at 205, 484 P.2d at 625 (pollution standards); Curry, 279 Ark. at 159-60, 649 S.W.2d at 837 (controlled substances act); People v. Holmes, 959 P.2d 406, 412 (Colo. 1998) (contraband at a detention facility); Avatar Dev. Corp., 723 So.2d at 207 (pollution control and prevention); Kellogg, 98......
  • People v. McCullough, No. 99SA317.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 3, 2000
    ...we presume that a statute comports with constitutional standards. See People v. Martinez, 970 P.2d 469, 472 (Colo.1998); People v. Holmes, 959 P.2d 406, 410 The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article II, section 7 of the Colorado Constitution proscribe all unreasonab......
  • Wainscott v. Centura Health Corp., Court of Appeals No. 13CA0995
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • August 14, 2014
    ...we are aware of no such authority. Centura had no duty to inform the Wainscotts that it intended to obey the law. Cf. People v. Holmes, 959 P.2d 406, 414 (Colo.1998) (“ ‘Based on the notion that the law is definite and knowable, the common law presumed that every person knew the law.’ ” (qu......
  • People v. Cisneros, Court of Appeals No. 09CA2717
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • April 24, 2014
    ...not supply adequate standards for those enforcing it in order to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. See People v. Holmes, 959 P.2d 406, 414 (Colo.1998). ¶ 45 Section 18–18–407(1)(f) requires a finding that the defendant “used, displayed, possessed or had available for use, a ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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