What rights does the Colorado Constitution confer to Coloradans?
The Colorado Constitution was written before the state’s entry to statehood in 1876. Read the entire Colorado Constitution online (yes, fortunately the state provides a free copy of the Colorado Constitution on a governmental website, unlike the state statutes). The Constitution grants individual rights, separates and distributes powers of government.
The federal system creates a hierarchy of powers. There are both state and federal constitutions, but the federal constitution reigns supreme. The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land and cannot be overridden by any state. See People v. Deitchman, 695 P.2d 1146, 1152 (Colo. 1985) (stating the United States Supreme Court sets the “constitutional benchmark for assessing the validity of Colorado’s [ ] statute under the federal constitution”). Colorado’s Constitution can only expand upon its federal counter-part. Thinking of it another way, the United States Constitution provides a minimum amount of liberty and the states are free to add more, if they so choose.
The amendments to the U.S. Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, confers fundamental rights and liberties. Colorado does not follow the same format as its federal counterpart. Article 2 of the Colorado Constitution lists the individual rights conferred by the state. Some of the sections are far more in-depth and provide more protection than its federal counter-part.
The interesting part is the text of the rights differ, in some cases dramatically, from the federal to the State version. It appears, at least in the case of Colorado, that courts have considered some of the Colorado protections to be more broad (offering more protections) than its federal counterpart. But what those extra protections are largely remain to be seen.
This page will compare and contrast the liberties conferred by the United States Constitution and the Colorado Constitution.