Rifle municipal court adding drug possession to city ordinance could help deter missed court dates
Rifle City Council aims to prevent people from missing court dates by adding a possession clause to its existing municipal drug law. The proposal was approved unanimously July 20.
Rifle Municipal Court Administrator Kathy Pototsky told City Council that, until recently, people were oftentimes having to attend separate courts over drug offenses.
Anyone charged with both possession and use of a controlled substance was summoned to Rifle municipal court for the use charge while the possession charge had to be resolved in county court.
The dual court dates caused confusion, sometimes leading people to miss court appearances.
“The mix-up happens all the time regardless of case type because sometimes individuals just know that they need to appear in Rifle and don’t realize that there are two courts here,” Pototsky told the Citizen Telegram on July 25. “By adding the minor drug cases here we are simply hoping to be able to handle the entire case in municipal court, which prevents our citizens from being required to appear in multiple courts.”
Pototsky said the amendment helps prevents cases being split between courts. She’s confident the city’s current judge and prosecutor are able to meet these extra needs.
“Throughout the country, drug offenses are becoming less severe, and our state legislature followed suit and reduced the severity of most of the drug cases from felonies to misdemeanors,” she said.
In March 2020, Colorado dropped possession of 4 grams of methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy or heroin from a felony to a misdemeanor offense. And in lieu of a typical 6- to 18-month jail sentence, courts now often impose misdemeanor probation sentences.
According to the newly amended Rifle city ordinance, anyone caught in possession of a substance — excluding any offenses concerning marijuana or marijuana concentrates — not prescribed or dispensed under a licensed fashion faces Class A misdemeanor.
In addition, anyone caught using a controlled substance — excluding any offenses concerning marijuana or marijuana concentrates — not prescribed or dispensed under a licensed fashion faces a Class B misdemeanor.
“We have a case, maybe, where you have someone who’s picked up for shoplifting or trespass, and they also have drugs on them,” Pototsky said. “Right now that trespass could be written into municipal court with the drug part of it being written in county court. This way, you can charge them all within our city.”
City documents state the former municipal code led to missed court dates and appearances in the wrong location. Pototsky said there’s no telling just exactly how many people have missed court dates based on this circumstance alone because “it’s almost always discovered that day when county court notices someone sitting there who isn’t on their docket or vice versa.”
“This also puts us in a better position to tailor dispositions to individual needs without involving different prosecutors, judges and attorneys,” she said.
Rifle City Council Member Alicia Gresley said on July 20 the city expanding their drug ordinance could also help police’s role easier.
“I’m sure it does get confusing with somebody’s issue (over) the summons for two different courts,” she said.
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