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Colorado Supreme Court Opinions
March 26, 2012

2012 CO 21. No. 11SA331. In re People v. Wilburn.
Expert Testimony on Defendant’s Mental Condition—Learning Disability—Mistake of Fact Defense on “Knowingly” Element—Court-Ordered Mental Examination.

In this original proceeding, the Supreme Court held that CRS § 16-8-107(3)(b) allows a defendant to introduce expert testimony concerning a mental condition in the absence of an insanity plea, providing that the defendant gives adequate notice and agrees to undergo a court-ordered mental health examination pursuant to CRS § 16-8-106. Here, defendant Tyler Wilburn announced his intent to introduce expert testimony of a learning disability to challenge whether he knowingly violated his bail bond condition, a mistake-of-fact defense under CRS § 18-1-504(1)(a). Wilburn missed his court date after he allegedly wrote down the wrong date. The prosecution maintained that, to introduce expert testimony of his mental condition, Wilburn must plead not guilty by reason of insanity, a plea that requires commitment to a state mental health facility. The trial court agreed and ordered Wilburn committed to a state facility for forty-five days to undergo a court-ordered mental examination. The Court issued a rule to show cause.

The Court reversed the trial court’s judgment and made the rule absolute. The Court held that Wilburn’s proposed expert testimony of a learning disability is admissible under the procedures of CRS § 16-8-107(3)(b), which requires notice and a court-ordered mental examination. Wilburn is not required to plead insanity to challenge whether he possessed the mens rea for the offense with expert testimony concerning his learning disability. Under CRS § 16-8-106, the trial court has discretion to consider the circumstances and the nature of Wilburn’s defense to set a reasonable time, place, and length for a court-ordered mental health examination.

2012 CO 22. No. 11SA234. People v. Esparza.
Search and Seizure—Dog Sniffs—Colo. Const. Art. II, § 7.

The People brought an interlocutory appeal assigning error to the district court’s suppression of contraband seized from defendant’s vehicle on two occasions. In each case, after defendant was arrested for driving under suspension, a police narcotics detection canine was brought to the scene and led around defendant’s truck, which had been parked and left at the location of her arrest. Also in each case, after the dog alerted to the presence of narcotics, a search of the truck’s cab revealed drug paraphernalia and suspected methamphetamine. The district court found that under these circumstances, the state constitution barred the police from bringing a trained narcotics detection dog within detection range of defendant’s vehicle without first having reasonable suspicion to believe it contained contraband, which the court found to be lacking in both cases.

The Supreme Court held that an interest in possessing contraband cannot be deemed legitimate under the state constitution any more than under the federal constitution, and that official conduct failing to compromise any legitimate interest in privacy cannot be deemed a search under the state constitution any more than under the federal constitution. Because narcotics dogs could not communicate anything more than reason to believe defendant’s truck either contained or did not contain contraband, permitting narcotics dogs to sniff around the vehicle did not infringe on any reasonable privacy interest. The Court reversed the district court’s order and remanded the case for further proceedings.





Colorado Supreme Court Opinions