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Colorado Supreme Court Opinions
July 31, 2006

No. 05SC808. In the Interest of K.D.: K.D. v. People.
Termination of Parental Rights—Parental Incarceration—Treatment Plans.

In this termination of parental rights case, the Colorado Supreme Court considers whether the trial court improperly relied on a criminal conviction and resulting incarceration to work a forfeiture of parental rights under CRS § 1-93-604(1)(c). The Court observes that parental incarceration alone is insufficient to work a forfeiture of parental rights under § 1-93-604(1)(c).

However, the Court notes that Colorado’s Children’s Code ( "Code"), CRS §§ 1-91-101 to 1-96-106, expressly permits, and in some cases requires, a trial court to consider parental incarceration in terminating the parent-child legal relationship under § 1-93-604(1)(c). Specifically, § 1-93-604(1)(c) of the Code requires a trial court to consider parental incarceration under two circumstances: (1) the parent is confined and not eligible for parole for at least six years after the date was adjudicated dependent or neglected; and (2) the parent is confined and not eligible for parole for at least thirty-six months after the date a child, who is under the age of 6 when the petition is filed, is adjudicated dependent or neglected.

The Court concludes, however, that a trial court is not precluded from considering periods of incarceration of less than thirty-six months. Because the primary and controlling issue in termination proceedings is the determination of what will best serve the interests and welfare of the child, a trial court may consider even a relatively short period of parental incarceration as a factor affecting parental fitness and the needs of a child who has been adjudicated dependent or neglected. The judgment is affirmed.

No. 06SA174. Danielson v. Dennis.
Parolee Disenfranchisement—Direct Appeal—Parolee Voting Prohibition—Full Term of Imprisonment—Injunction—Unconstitutional Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

In this direct appeal pursuant to CRS § 1-1-113(3), plaintiff-appellant Danielson challenges defendant-appellee Dennis, in her capacity as Colorado Secretary of State, to refuse to allow Danielson and other felony parolees to register to vote or to vote. Danielson wishes to register to vote and to vote. Secretary of State Dennis will not allow Danielson and other parolees to vote, because CRS § 1-2-103(4) provides that no person "serving a sentence of parole shall be eligible to register to vote or to vote in any election."

Danielson challenges the constitutionality of this statute, alleging it conflicts with Article VII, section 10, of the Colorado Constitution. Section 10 provides that persons who were qualified electors prior to their imprisonment and who have served their full term of imprisonment shall have their rights of citizenship restored to them. In dismissing the petition and complaint in this case, the District Court for the City and County of Denver ruled in favor of the Colorado Secretary of State that the statute is not unconstitutional because it does not conflict with the constitutional provision.

The Colorado Supreme Court holds that the General Assembly did not violate Article VII, section 10, of the Colorado Constitution by enacting a law that prevents a person who has been convicted of a felony and is serving a sentence of parole from voting or registering to vote. The intent of the constitutional phrase "full term of imprisonment" is to restore an incarcerated person’s full rights upon completion of his or her sentence, or upon a pardon from the Governor. A person who is serving a sentence of parole has not served his or her full term of imprisonment within the meaning of this constitutional provision. Appellants have not borne their burden of clearly demonstrating that CRS § 1-2-103(4) is unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Colorado Supreme Court affirms the judgment of the district court.

Colorado Supreme Court Opinions