DENVER — There are laws in Colorado to prevent police officers from taking advantage of their authority, but the law that helps prevent sexual assault says a victim can't consent if they are "detained in a jail, prison, or hospital," and Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver) said this should be expanded.
"However, the time period before you get to behind bars, says a pedestrian stop or a traffic stop is not covered in current law," Rep. Herod said.
HB19-1250, which passed through the House Judiciary Committee last week, would add three more instances of law enforcement encounters where consent could not be used as a defense for an officer.
- When the peace officer encounters the victim for the purpose of law enforcement or in the performance of the officer's duties;
- When the peace officer knows at the time of the unlawful sexual conduct that the victim is the subject of an active investigation; or
- When the peace officer makes any show of authority in connection with the unlawful sexual conduct.
The bill would also classify unlawful sexual contact by an officer as a felony rather than a misdemeanor. That would have changed the outcome of the case involving former Westminster Officer Curtis Arganbright.
"It absolutely would have impacted that specific case because what it does is it puts it into the sex offender category," Rep. Herod said.
Arganbright pleaded down to two misdemeanors and got 90 days in jail after he was accused of raping a woman while giving her a ride home in his patrol car.
It could also make a difference in the case against the former Lakewood Police officer who was also accused of sex-related crimes while on duty.
"Some people might argue that we don't need this law and maybe it's only one or two cases a year," Rep. Herod said. "And I say one or two cases is too much."
Republican Representative Rod Bockenfeld said the bill is "unnecessary"
"Eliminating consent as a defense tips the scales of justice towards the prosecution and ties the hands of the defense," Rep. Bockenfeld wrote in an email to 9NEWS. "Like anyone else, let police officers be judged by a jury of his/her peers."
The bill will now move to the House Appropriations Committee.
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