Crime

Jun 6, 2012 8:34 PM by Andy Koen

Robbery suspect seems to fit "habitual" definition

It was a disturbing new way of committing a common crime; the suspect allegedly doused his victims in lighter fluid and threatened to set them on fire if they didn't open the cash registers.

That suspect, 51 year-old Dwight Davis, was arrested last month on a slew of burglary and robbery charges. In one particular case he's accused of breaking into his step father's home and assaulting the 74 year old man before stealing less than $40 from him.

A quick glance at Davis' wrap sheet left us wondering why he was on the streets at all in light of Colorado's 3-strikes law.

Davis has served time for assault, motor vehicle, burglary and drunk driving convictions in the early 90's, a sex assault conviction from 1984, and according to the arrest warrant from the sex assault, he was on parole at the time from an earlier drug conviction.

The state's habitual offender law passed in 1994, after Davis most recent conviction. Lawmakers have since amended the language to allow a judge to triple or quadruple a defendant's sentence rather than automatically requiring a life sentence.

4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May can't comment directly Davis' case because it is still being tried. Generally speaking, he says his office files habitual criminal charges when appropriate.

"We're pretty agressive here," May said. "I strongly believe that when you look at 80 percent of our crime, a lot of times it's done by 20 percent of our people and if we can identify the career criminal, we can make our community safer by taking them off the streets."

Proving that a defendant is a habitual criminal requires a second separate trial in front of a judge to demonstrate the prior convictions.

"You are looking at things such as how extensive is their record, is it a violent record, have they been perpetrating crimes on our kids, are they repeating it over and over and over to where they're just not learning from other ways," May said.

It's extra work, but it's something May has done more than 33 times in his first term as DA.

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