According to a local news station in Denver, Colorado, the 18th Judicial District, Colorado’s largest by population, including Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, accidentally purged hundreds of unresolved misdemeanor cases years before they were due to be reviewed for dismissal.
This represented many criminals who skipped court appearances and included 1,109 similar cases in 2007. One in four of those cases or at least 285 warrants were cancelled by mistake and were not eligible for dismissal under rules established by the 18th Judicial District and District Attorney Carol Chambers.
The Colorado Supreme Court requires unresolved misdemeanor cases be held for no less than four years before documents can be destroyed to save space. An agreement between the 18th Judicial District and District Attorney Chambers required that the most minor traffic offenses with active failure to appear warrants be held for five years. The deal outlined a sliding scale where the most serious misdemeanor cases including DUI, child abuse and drugs charges would be individually reviewed after 10 years. However, because of a “clerical error” these cases were purged out of the system.
The result was that a known criminal who was also an illegal immigrant charged with vehicular homicide was out on the streets. He was known to drive drunk and in September 2009 killed a sixty-nine year old grandmother.
This is what happens when a “clerical” error occurs. Criminals are out on the street and innocent people die. Because of this error, a judge has reissued warrants in some of the 285 prematurely dismissed cases, but other cases appear to be lost forever.