DA gets courts to change policy for people accused of stalking in Summit County
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY – A tragic murder-suicide this month in Leadville led to a change in the way accused stalkers are handled across the Fifth Judicial District, but local defense attorneys say the new policy might not be worth the resources.
People accused of stalking now must see a judge before they may be released on bond, similar to how domestic-violence cases are handled.
“It allows us to argue bond and look at the person’s criminal history,” District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said. “This allows the judge to serve them with a criminal restraining order.”
The previous policy had a standard bond already set for stalking cases. A civil restraining order was possible, but it wouldn’t have the immediate effect of a criminal restraining order made before the suspect bonded out. It also might not be as effective.
In the Leadville case, a civil restraining order was issued June 22 to Robert Medina to stay at least 10 yards from next-door neighbor Yvonne Flores’ home and work. Medina shot Flores to death in her driveway July 7.
Hurlbert said a criminal restraining order could require the suspect to vacate his or her home and stay at least 100 yards away from the possible victim.
The accused could be required to forfeit weapons such as guns as well, he said.
JB Katz, an attorney in Breckenridge, said that as the victim in a former stalker case, she doesn’t feel seeing a judge will change a suspected stalker’s course of action.
“If somebody wants to harm you or they’re obsessed with you, it’s going to take a lot more than that to keep them from you,” she said, adding that whether a felony or misdemeanor case, people are still going to be able to post bond.
Sean McAllister, also an attorney in Breckenridge, said that while keeping a person in jail a few extra days might waste resources, he understands Hurlbert’s intention.
“There’s a fine balance between the rights of the defendant and the safety of the victim,” McAllister said.
Hurlbert said that while a determined stalker might not be deterred, it “doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything in our power to protect” potential victims.
“If it prevents one death, it’s not a waste of resources,” he said of the change in court policy.
Having to see a judge isn’t likely to significantly extend the jail stay of someone accused of stalking during the week. But if that person is arrested during the weekend, he or she would have to wait until a judge is available Monday.
The judge can also order the accused to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Hurlbert said that if the evaluation led to a need for counseling, that could help to “safeguard the community,” though it wouldn’t be admissible in court.
Asked how big a problem violent stalkers are in the Fifth District, he said:
“As far as non-domestic violence stalking, we have not had many – but each one is huge.”
SDN reporter Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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