Denver Passes Sentencing Changes to Help Immigrants
The Denver City Council unanimously voted to pass a proposal that could help immigrants facing low-level city court criminal sentences. Before this proposal was passed, the Denver city code allowed for a maximum penalty of one year in jail for any city ordinance violation. The new code will divide city ordinance violations into three categories based on the severity of the crime. Only the seven most serious offenses will have a maximum penalty of one year in jail. The other two categories, for less serious offenses, will have a maximum sentence of either 60 days in jail or 300 days in jail. Offenses like violent assaults and repeat domestic violence will remain punishable by up to one year in jail. But offenses like trespassing, shoplifting, and initial domestic violence offenses will only be punishable by up to 300 days in jail.
The reason this change is so important is due to the language of immigration laws. Under the current law, a noncitizen is deportable after committing a crime involving moral turpitude if the offense was committed within five years of admission to the United States and if the offense carries a potential sentence of one year. The potential sentence of one year is what the Denver City Council was working to help immigrants avoid.
Many advocates were hoping the change would make the maximum penalty for all local violations 364 days to avoid the potential immigration consequences, but there is currently not enough support to make that change.
Denver’s mayor, Michael Hancock, said the city wanted to help protect its residents and their rights, especially following the executive orders signed by the President.
This change only impacts local ordinance violations that are tried in Denver County Court and does not affect more serious state-level crimes that are tried in the Denver District Court, but it is a step in the right direction for many noncitizens.