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Colorado Law Grants Immunity to Law Enforcement Officers Transporting Juveniles

Colorado Law Grants Immunity to Law Enforcement Officers Transporting Juveniles

by David M. Reutter

The Colorado Supreme Court held on January 13, 2014 that “allegations of negligence alone are not sufficient to overcome the statutory grant of immunity and the presumption of good faith afforded to law enforcement officers” under section 19-2-508(7), C.R.S. (2013) – a statute that pertains to officers who transport juveniles

The Court’s ruling vacated a trial court’s order denying a motion to dismiss on immunity grounds in a lawsuit filed against the Jefferson County Sheriff and Deputy John Hodges. While transporting juveniles Daniel Larson and Dylan Bucy on July 28, 2010 from a court hearing to the Mount View Youth Services Center, a collision occurred between the transport van and a car that failed to yield when Deputy Hodges pulled into an intersection.

Larson and Bucy were injured. They filed suit, alleging that Hodges had acted negligently by failing to secure their seatbelts while they were handcuffed and by driving into the intersection without ensuring it was clear. After the trial court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the Colorado Supreme Court granted review.

Under section 19-2-508(7), it “shall be presumed” that law enforcement officers “acting under the direction of the court who in good faith transport[] any juvenile” are entitled to immunity for civil or criminal liability.

The trial court found that immunity under the statute did not apply because there was sufficient evidence to “infer that Hodges failed to act in faithfulness to his duty or obligation to secure the [juveniles] and accordingly did not transport the [juveniles] in good faith.”

The Supreme Court held that if negligence alone were sufficient to rebut the presumption of good faith, “the immunity afforded by section 19-2-508(7) would be gutted because law enforcement officers would have to demonstrate a complete lack of negligence – meaning they would not be liable in the first place – in order to receive immunity.”

The Court therefore concluded “that allegations of negligence alone are not sufficient to overcome the immunity and the presumption of good faith provided by section 19-2-508(7). To hold otherwise would impermissibly defile the legislature’s attempt to immunize qualifying law enforcement officers from liability.” See: Young v. Jefferson County, 2014 CO 1, 318 P.3d 458 (Colo. 2014).

 

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Related legal case

Young v. Jefferson County


 

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