CIVIL ABATEMENT OF PUBLIC NUISANCES
The City and County of Denver may bring a civil lawsuit against an individual if it believes that the person was involved in a public nuisance; that a public nuisance occurred in or on the person’s property; or that the person’s property was used to commit, conduct, promote, facilitate, or aid the commission of, or flight from, one or more of the public nuisance activities set forth in Denver Revised Municipal Code §37-50. These activities include, but are not limited to: various offenses involving drugs or weapons, prostitution, gang-related criminal activity, unlawfully transporting or storing stolen property, and operation of a vehicle by a habitual traffic offender.
SERVICE OF THE SUMMONS & COMPLAINT AND FILING AN ANSWER AND RESPONSE
The summons and complaint in a nuisance and abatement case is usually served on the defendant(s) via U.S. mail at the defendant’s address on file with the property assessor, clerk and recorder, Colorado Department of Revenue Division of Motor Vehicles, or other similar agency. It is important to note that service is considered to be completed seven (7) days after the summons is mailed, whether or not it is actually received by the party named in the summons. If the defendant(s) is served the summons and complaint in a nuisance and abatement case within the State of Colorado, the defendant(s) is required to file an answer or other response within twenty-one (21) days after service is completed. If the defendant(s) is served the summons and complaint outside of the State of Colorado, the defendant(s) is required to file an answer or other response within thirty-five (35) days after service is completed. Answers or other responses must be filed in the Clerk’s Office of Denver County Court (Room 135 of the City and County Building) between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays.
Pursuant to Denver Revised Municipal Code §37-70(b), there are two circumstances in which property owners should be granted relief from the strict application of the nuisance and abatement remedies:
(1) Where no privity (which can generically be defined as a legally recognized formal or informal relationship; including, but not limited to: friend, family, business partner, associate, accomplice, etc.) exists between the owner and the offending party, including but not limited to offending trespassers, the owner will be entitled to immediate release of such property, where the owner proves by a preponderance of evidence that he or she has:
a. Taken all reasonable steps to preclude access to the property by the offending trespasser or user;
b. Immediately reported the trespass, theft or other criminal violation to a local law enforcement agency; and
c. Fully cooperated with all law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of the criminal acts relating to or underlying the public nuisance offense.
(2) Where the owner may have privity (which can generically be defined as a legally recognized formal or informal relationship; including, but not limited to: friend, family, business partner, associate, accomplice, etc.) with the offending party, but such owner shows that all reasonable steps were taken to prevent the proscribed use of the property, and that such owner neither:
a. Participated in the transaction constituting the public nuisance act, nor;
b. Knew, or reasonably should have known, that the property would be used in the commission of a public nuisance act, or that the person who used the property illegally had engaged in prior similar conduct or that such person had a prior record or reputation for violating the laws of the United States, State of Colorado, or the City of Denver for related crime.
If the defendant(s) fails to file an answer or other response to the complaint in writing within the applicable time period, the court may enter a default judgment against the defendant(s). This default judgment may include:
- an order to impound the vehicle or close real property; Impounded vehicles and property may be sold by the City;
- an order to destroy the vehicle or buildings situated on the real property;
- an order to seize and close a vehicle for not less than six months nor more than one year;
- an order placing real property into receivership; an order permitting the public nuisance abatement coordinator, police officer or sheriff’s deputy to enter the real property and take steps to abate the public nuisance;
- a civil judgment for $2,000.00 and a lien in favor of the City for said judgment; an order to pay all maintenance, security, taxes, and insurance on the vehicle or real property;
- an order for removal of certain individuals from the real property, and any other orders that may be reasonably necessary to access, maintain, and safeguard the vehicle or real property or to abate the public nuisance.
MOTIONS TO VACATE OR MODIFY TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDERS OR FOR RETURN OF SEIZED PROPERTY
If the complaint in a nuisance and abatement case shows that there is probable cause that a nuisance occurred, the Court will issue a Temporary Restraining Order preventing the defendant(s) from having contact with the subject property and seizing the property (after 10 days for real property) until the case is resolved. Defendant(s)s in nuisance and abatement cases have the right to file a Motion to Vacate or Modify the Temporary Restraining Order or for the return of the seized property. To do so, the defendant(s) must, within ten (10) days of the date the Temporary Restraining Order was served:
(1) File a Motion to Vacate or Modify Temporary Restraining Order or a Motion For Return of Seized Property with the Court at 1437 Bannock St., Room 135, Denver, CO 80202 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays;
(2) Serve a copy of the motion on the Office of the Public Nuisance Abatement Coordinator, Denver Police Department, 1331 Cherokee St., Denver, CO 80204, by personal hand delivery, not by mail;
(3) Have the Court set the motion for a hearing to be held within twenty (20) days of the date the Temporary Restraining Order was served upon you; AND
(4) Have the motion heard by the Court within twenty (20) days of the date the Temporary Restraining Order was served.
If the defendant(s) does not comply with each requirement above within the time limits, any objections to the Temporary Restraining Order are waived and the protection order will become a permanent Order of the Court until the trial takes place.
INFORMATION REGARDING IMPOUNDED VEHICLES
The owner of record of an impounded vehicle will receive a postcard from the Vehicle Impound informing the owner that the vehicle has been impounded. These notices are mailed to the address that the State of Colorado Department of Revenue has on file for where the vehicle is registered. Once the vehicle is impounded on an alleged nuisance offense, the City has forty-five (45) days from the date of impound to file the civil nuisance action. After a Temporary Restraining Order is issued, you may reach a settlement agreement with the Denver City Attorney’s Office for release of the vehicle, or you may contest the impoundment through the formal court process.
For more information on the Denver Impound Lot, you may visit their website at: Denver Sheriff Department, or contact them at:
Vehicle Impound Facility
5160 York Street
Denver, Colorado 80216
Phone: (720) 865-0470
Hours of Operation:
Monday – Friday: 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
STIPULATIONS WITH THE CITY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
An individual who would like to settle a nuisance and abatement case with the City Attorney’s Office can contact them at:
Prosecution and Code Enforcement
201 W. Colfax Ave., Dept. 1207
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: (720) 913-8050
Fax: (720) 913-8010
Depending on the nuisance offense, most cases can be settled with the City Attorney’s Office within thirty (30) to sixty (60) days of impoundment of a vehicle. Settlements will result in a written “stipulation”, which must be submitted to the Court for approval.
The municipal code governing the civil abatement of public nuisances can be found in Chapter 37, Article III of the Denver Revised Municipal Code. If you do not understand any of the information above or if you are in need of additional assistance, please consult with an attorney.