Experienced Colorado Attorney Explains People v. Schakley and Issues of Venue.
Synopsis: In an off-year election, 2009, Mr. Schakley allegedly voted in both Arapahoe and Adams counties. Carol Chambers and crew in Arapahoe charged Mr. Schakley, who voted in his own name on both ballots, with misdemeanor voting fraud. The defense filed and the Arapahoe County Court granted a motion to change venue to Adams County. The prosecution appealed the venue change through an interlocutory appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court.
Issue: Whether the trial court had the authority to change the venue from Arapahoe to Adams County?
Reasoning: The Court held either Adams or Arapahoe to be proper venue. The Court found that a trial court may change venue if the current venue could not provide a fair or expeditious trial or if the parties stipulate to a change of venue. The Court stated flatly, “[A] criminal court does not have the inherent power to transfer a criminal prosecution from a county in which the legislature has deemed it triable ‘merely because the court considers another county to be a more appropriate venue or more easily established as a proper situs of the offense.’” Further, the Court reasoned, “We have acknowledged that the ‘act in furtherance of’ language of section 18-1-202(1) serves to expand the situs of the crime beyond the location of the causative criminal conduct or proscribed result, and includes any county where an act in furtherance of the offense occurred.”
The Court referred to its previous decision in People v. Freeman, 668 P.2d 1371 (Colo. 1983). In Freeman, the Court “determined that the sale of stolen property was an ‘act in furtherance of’ felony murder, where the disposition of the property was closely related to the defendant’s overall criminal scheme of obtaining stolen vehicles by means of robbery, kidnapping, and murder.” Thus, in Freeman, the Court found “venue was proper in Jefferson County for a felony murder that occurred in Denver County, even though the only act that occurred in Jefferson County was the subsequent sale of the stolen vehicle.” (Quoted portions taken from Schakley).
***Commentary contributed by Eric Sims Jr., Esq.***