Chokehold Ban Among Colorado Police Bills Nearing Approval

New limits on police authority are nearing approval in the Colorado legislature. The bills were put forth last year attempted to ban police from using chokeholds on suspects but experienced fierce opposition from police groups and Republicans. This year’s bill has been edited and includes compromises to suit all parties. Last year’s bill prohibited officers from using a choke hold. This year’s bill narrows that definition to ban only chokeholds that cut off air flow, not those that cut off blood flow. Police say it’s an important distinction. Sen. John Cook, a Republican from Weld county said the chokehold ban has been amended to the point that “the only one that would do it is a bad cop.” Sen. Michael Johnston of Denver said the amended bill still addresses public concerns about chokeholds. “This is in response to come of the tragedies that have happened because of overuse of the chokehold,” and “puts guardrails around when this can be used.” While some ban on chokeholds is obviously necessary, it is scary that the bill needed to be so specifically amended. In the heat of the moment, will an officer be able to determine if the suspect in question can breathe? Will the bill prohibit a chokehold if the suspect explicit states they can’t breathe? The compromises are yet another example of police fighting tooth and nail against restrictions to their power. Body cameras, restrictions on their ability to shoot at moving cars, and now the right to use a chokehold are all topics the police have lobbied against. Is it really so difficult for police to do their jobs, under surveillance and without violence? Sure, in some cases police need to use violence to subdue a violent suspect but that is also why we equip them with a baton, Taser, pepper spray, and gun. Why do they still need the chokehold? The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani specialize in the field of Criminal Defense. Call our Denver office today for a Free Consultation.

Cite: Kristin Wyatt, Associated Press, 3/29/2016


Texas Panel Calls for an End to Criminal I.D.’s via Bite Mark

An influential scientific commission in Texas called Friday for a halt to the use of bite-mark identifications in criminal trials. After a six-month investigation the Texas Forensic Science Commission recommended excluding bite-mark testimony, the first of its kind from any official state or federal body. The commission said, when appropriate, convicts and their defense lawyers would be notified whether to pursue new trials or exonerations. Specialists used to claim that they could reliably match tooth patterns to a defendant in criminal cases involving bites. The malleability of human tissue, and discrepancy in wound patterns from the same teeth can differ making the results of bit mark analysis very unscientific. Several people convicted based on this evidence were later exonerated by DNA testing. In one study presented to the Texas commission, a panel of leading forensic dentists studied photographs of purported bit wounds and in most cases could not even agree whether the marks were caused by human teeth. This new call to exclude bite mark evidence in criminal cases has huge implications. Those already convicted on bite mark evidence will need new trials. We can assume that several innocent people across the country were convicted on this faulty evidence. What other types of evidence will later be exonerated? The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani specialize in the area of Criminal Defense and assault defense. If you have been charged with a Misdemeanor, Felony, assault, or any other crime, call our office for a free consultation.

Cite: Erik Eckholm, The New York Times, February 12, 2016


No Charges for Denver Sheriff’s Deput

In 2012, Deputy Brady Lovingier should have been charged with 3rd degree assault when he slammed inmate Anthony Waller into a courtroom wall in front of Denver County Court Judge Burd. Denver Chief Judge Michael Martinez called a hearing on Friday, hours before the statute of limitations rans out, to discuss the issue. The District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute, even in lieu of the courtroom video that shows an unprovoked and overly aggressive attack on a defendant as he stood at the podium addressing Judge Burd. This case is a prime example of how the DA’s office is too protective of the sheriff’s department. Video evidence of the incident shows Lovingier slamming the shackled and bound inmate into a window frame of the courtroom. Waller was dragged from the court room and suffered minor injuries. Lovingier served a 30-day suspension after the public safety director’s office determined he had used inappropriate force and had no justifiable reason to slam Waller into the wall. Deputy District Attorney Doug Jackson ultimately made the decision to not press charges on Lovingier, a decision Judge Martinez criticized on Friday. “I don’t for the life of me see how the prosecutor could make that assessment in light of the video,” said Martinez. This is an example of a dangerously close relationship between the police, and the district attorney. Police need to be prosecuted for their bad acts. If you have been charged with a crime don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani. We are located in downtown Denver and will fight hard to represent your interests.

Cite: Noelle Phillips, The Denver Post, 9/11/2015


Federal Heights Officer Pleads guilty to Assault on Suspect

A former Federal Heights Police Department officer, Mark Magness, pleaded guilty to attempted assault in June after he assaulted a robbery suspect. Evidence captured while wearing a body camera shows the officer threw the suspect into a refrigerator and viciously punched him several times. The incident was reported by fellow officers, and the incident was luckily caught on tape via body camera. This was the second time this officer had been charged for using excessive force against a suspect. In 2009, he plead guilty to a reckless endangerment charge and was allowed to remain a Federal Heights police officer. Police chief Karl Wilmes was not chief in 2009 and does not know why Magness was not terminated back in 2009. Magness’ attorney said his client no longer works for law enforcement and that the firing of Magness will not be appealed. “I busted him up,” Magness said on the video. “I take full responsibility”. If you feel you are the victim of excessive force, call the Law Offices of Steven Pisani, LLC. We specialize in Criminal Defense. Call us today for a free consultation.

Cite: Noelle Phillips, The Denver Post, 6/30/2015


Mandatory Minimum Sentence for Assault on a Peace Officer

The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar has been working to pass HB-15-1303, sponsored by Representative Melton, which will end the mandatory minimum sentence for 2nd degree assault on a peace officer.  


The current felony law for this crime carries, upon conviction, a mandatory minimum sentence of 4 years in prison, up to 8 years. This mandatory minimum sentence applies even when there is no serious bodily injury and no weapon was used. 


HB15-1303 simply removes the mandatory minimum sentence of 4 years and instead aligns this offense with other class 4 felonies. It does not change the level of crime (class 4 felony). This will allow a judge can take into consideration the circumstances of the individual case.   


Research shows that mandatory minimum sentences are not effective tools for the prevention of crime.  Mandatory minimum sentences prevent courts from imposing a sentence that is individualized to the defendant and based on circumstances of the crime. For instance, a defendant that is accused of spitting on an EMT while being attended to, and for this they are facing a mandatory minimum of 4 years. In practice, these minimums are often used to suppress a defendant’s right to trial by forcing a plea bargain because going to trial and losing is too risky.

There is significant opposition to this bill from prosecutors, law enforcement, EMTs, and firefighters. This bill would not reduce the protections on these first responders, it would just give defendants more opportunity to scrutinize the evidence against them and would allow judges to determine appropriate sentences for specific actions.  We need to act now to make sure our client’s voices are heard. Click here to look up your local representative in the Colorado State House.   

Colorado NHL Player Charged with assault

On behalf of The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC posted in Domestic Violence on Friday, December 6, 2013.

Some criminal charges are more personal than others. Domestic violence charges often fall under this umbrella because they usually involve situations in which an individual is accused of harming a family member or companion.

There is a difference between accusations of what occurred and what actually transpired. Ultimately, it is important to focus in on the key details of a case in order to uncover viable defenses and weaknesses in the prosecutions’ case.

Contact our firm today for a free consultation

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