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Direct File reform bill passes Senate, heads to Hickenlooper

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DENVER — Most third-reading final votes take two minutes.

Thursday’s Senate third-reading vote on a controversial proposal to strip district attorneys of their unilateral discretion over charging juvenile offenders as adults took two hours.

But, after a number of stops and starts and an unexpected debate over a late amendment, House Bill 1271 is on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk after passing the Senate on a 22-13 final vote.

H.B. 1271, sponsored by Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, would ensure judicial review of all “direct file” cases.

As a result, prosecutors, who currently have sole discretion over whether to charge juveniles as adults, would have to plead their case before a judge, who would also hear arguments from defense attorneys.

The amendment, brought by Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, aimed to shift the burden of proof onto the juvenile offender’s attorney to override a district attorney’s decision to “direct file” the case.

Democrats, who called a brief recess to hold a caucus meeting, appeared confused over how to proceed with Mitchell’s amendment.

After Democrats amended rules preventing third-reading amendments to debate it, the measure failed by the slimmest of margins: 18-17.

According to sources close to the process, Gov. Hickenlooper had given the bill’s supporters an indication that, while conflicted about it, he will sign the bill into law if it comes to him as it is currently written.

Officially, the governor’s office has said only that they’ll consider the bill once it’s in front of them.

Which is now.

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