The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday exempted people with a sex offense conviction from a key 2019 decision that prohibited defendants from being sentenced to prison followed by probation in the same criminal case.

People with a sex offense conviction in Colorado can face such punishment in some circumstances, the justices found in a pair of opinions that examined how the state’s sentencing laws for sex offenses drastically differ from sentencing for other crimes.

The 2019 ruling surprised many in Colorado’s legal system who had operated for years under the belief that it was fine to sentence defendants to prison followed by probation. The court’s decision that the practice was unlawful opened the door for hundreds of defendants to get out of prison or renegotiate their plea deals.

That type of sentencing was perhaps most often seen in cases involving sex offenses, and Monday’s pair of 5-2 decisions uphold the practice for defendants who are convicted of both a sex offense and another crime.

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