DENVER, Colorado — Hundreds of criminal cases in Colorado could be impacted by a recent state supreme court decision. In the case of Allman v People, the justices unanimously ruled that courts cannot sentence criminal defendants to both prison and probation.
Frederick Allman was convicted on multiple counts of identity theft in case out Boulder County from 2015. His initial appeal to try and shorten his prison time was rejected. While the justices disagreed with his legal arguments, they did reverse part of the lower court ruling because Allman was given probation in addition to prison.
"These types of sentences with a probation sentence after a prison term are really quite common," said attorney Scott Robinson, a legal analyst for NBC News.
He explained that these combination sentences are most frequently used in sex offense cases where a judge may feel that extra supervision is needed.
Robinson thinks there could be hundreds of lawsuits filed across the state as defendants learned that their sentences are illegal. However, that choice comes with a risk.
"An illegal sentence can be corrected at any time,” Robinson explained. “So, it's highly unlikely that anybody who has this kind of sentence has to accept it as valid. The risk is, they go in and say I don't want to be on probation, the judge can put them back in prison."
In that scenario, more pressure would be put on a crowded state prison system.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has filed a request for a rehearing of the case. Robinson believes the state legislature may take up the issue next year. However, any new law is unlikely to be made retroactive for cases that have already gone through the courts.