AGO 88-1.

Case Date:January 25, 1988
Colorado Attorney General Opinions 1988. AGO 88-1. January 25, 1988Department of Law Attorney General Opinion FORMAL OPINION of DUANE WOODARD Attorney General Opinion No. 88-1 AG Alpha No. PS PA AGAQK David Thomas Executive Director Department of Public Safety 700 Kipling Lakewood, Colorado 80215 John N. Dempsey, Chief Colorado State Patrol 700 Kipling Lakewood, Colorado 80215 RE: Colorado State Patrol arrest and filing authorityDear Messrs. Thomas and Dempsey: This opinion letter is in response to your December 9, 1987 letter, in which you inquired whether a Colorado State Patrol officer has the authority to make an arrest for a nontraffic crime when probable cause for such arrest develops during the course of a traffic stop. QUESTION PRESENTED AND CONCLUSION Your request for an Attorney General's opinion presents the following question: May a Colorado State Patrol officer make an arrest for, and file a criminal case on, a nontraffic offense which was discovered during the course of a traffic stop? A Colorado State Patrol officer may lawfully arrest for a nontraffic crime discovered in the course of performing his statutory duties and in particular, in the course of and incident to, a lawful traffic stop; it is solely within the discretion of the appropriate district attorney, however, to make the determination of whether criminal charges will be filed following an arrest. ANALYSIS Two separate statutes in the Colorado legislative scheme address the authority and powers of the Colorado State Patrol (hereafter, "the Patrol"): (1) the Patrol's enabling act, which states the agency's affirmative powers and duties, sections 24-33.5-201 to 24-33.5-226, C.R.S. (1987) (hereafter, "the Act") and (2) the peace officer statute, section 18-1-901(3), C.R.S. (1986). The primary duty of the Patrol is to "promote safety, protect human life, and preserve the highways of this state...." Section 24-33.5-212(2), C.R.S. (1987). Consequently, the Act provides the Colorado State Patrol with varying specific powers and responsibilities that range from enforcement of the motor vehicle laws to enforcement of the automobile theft laws, vehicle inspection, investigation of traffic accidents and closures of highways for athletic or other special events.(fn1) The Act further provides that Patrol officers "shall not be used ... by any authority of the state in any manner in the enforcement of any law other than that specifically provided in [the Act] or as may be otherwise specifically provided in any other law of this state" (emphasis supplied). The peace officer statute provides, in pertinent part: "Peace officer, level I," means a police officer, undersheriff, deputy sheriff, Colorado state patrol officer pursuant to section 24-33.5-212, C.R.S., marshal, or security officer employed by any state institution of higher education...

To continue reading