The more I research the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act (CCJRA), the more I believe it is unconstitutionally arbitrary on its face and should be scrapped completely and rewritten. During the rewriting process it should be incorporated with Colorado Open Records Act to make a single policy for Open Records in Colorado. In other words, the Colorado General Assembly should use their discretion and take out the arbitrary discretion of the CCJRA.
All criminal justice records, at the discretion of the official custodian, may be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times, except as otherwise provided by law, and the official custodian of any such records may make such rules and regulations with reference to the inspection of such records as are reasonably necessary for the protection of such records and the prevention of unnecessary interference with the regular discharge of the duties of the custodian or his office.
— Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-304 (1).
The statute permits custodians to make rules and regulations surrounding the release of criminal justice records in Colorado. What this means is that every law enforcement agency in the state of Colorado could have different rules and regulations for the inspection of criminal justice records. If it isn’t bad enough that each agency can decide for itself without any guidelines from the state, the statute makes creating rules and regulations voluntary! Are you kidding me, Colorado General Assembly? Who in their right mind thought creating guidelines on a voluntary, ad hoc basis was a good idea?
The Colorado General Assembly seemingly contradicted their own legislative intent for the CCJRA. The legislative intent of the CCJRA is the “maintenance, access and dissemination, completeness, accuracy, and sealing of criminal justice records are matters of statewide concern and that, in defining and regulating those areas, only statewide standards in a state statute are workable.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-301 (1) (emphasis added). But in another breath later on in the same chapter gives the custodian of the records discretion, without any guidelines as how to apply the discretion.
If it is a matter of statewide concern, and the legislature intended to have statewide standards, something must have broke down along the way. There is too much discretion in how custodians may disseminate criminal justice records for there to be any intellectually honest claims of statewide standards associated with it. Something has got to give. Is each custodian allowed to voluntarily make their own rules and regulations? Or are there some sort of statewide standards that custodians must consider? What gives Colorado General Assembly?
The law is arbitrary and contradictory, plain and simple.
Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz on Flickr