Can you be charged with a violent crime when you didn’t even touch the other person? What defenses do you have if someone takes something the wrong way or finds something threatening that you meant as a joke? Find out what Colorado’s menacing law means, and how it interacts with other crimes like assault, battery and domestic violence.
This blog post will review the Colorado menacing law. It will discuss how the law interacts with assault charges and domestic violence cases and will describe what the possible consequences can be if you are convicted of menacing.
What is Menacing?
Colorado law says a person can be charged with menacing if he or she knowingly threatens or attempts to place someone else in fear of serious injury or death. It is similar to laws against “assault” or “making criminal threats” in other states. A basic menacing conviction is a Class 3 misdemeanor, with penalties including some combination of:
- 6 months in jail
- $50-750 in fines
However, if the behavior includes a threat of the use of a deadly weapon, menacing can be charged as a Class 5 felony. In that case a conviction could result in:
- 1-3 years in prison
- Probation or parole
- $1,000 – $100,000 in fines
- Loss of the right to possess firearms
- Possible court martial proceedings against active-duty military servicemembers
What Counts as a Deadly Weapon for Colorado Felony Menacing Charges?
Colorado law allows the prosecutor to file felony menacing charges based on anything which could produce death or serious bodily injury based on the manner used. Typical examples of deadly weapons include:
- Guns (including paintball or toy guns if they could reasonably be seen as real)
- Metal tools (like hammers)
- Baseball bats
- Fists (depending on the circumstances)
Colorado menacing law is broad. It includes cases where the alleged victim did not know there was a weapon or that the threat occurred (including when they were sleeping). In other cases a toy or other non-lethal item was used to imitate a deadly weapon. It also includes threats of using a deadly weapon the person did not actually have (such as using a finger in a pocket and claiming it is a gun).
What If It was All a Misunderstanding?
Colorado menacing law isn’t about how the other person responded. It is about what the person charged knowingly did. Sometimes local police will arrest a person and the prosecutors will press menacing charges based on the situation and how the alleged victim reacted. However, at trial, the prosecutor will need to show that you were aware that what you did was practically certain to cause fear. This leads to some unusual circumstances. Menacing charges can be filed even when:
- The alleged victim is not actually afraid
- You didn’t specifically intend to scare the person
- The alleged victim responded aggressively or angrily
How Can You Defend Against Colorado Menacing Laws?
Given that Colorado menacing laws are so broad, is there anything you can do to defend yourself against the charges? Often a successful menacing defense is based on the “knowingly” requirement. You may be able to get a not-guilty verdict if what you did wasn’t likely to cause someone to be afraid, or if the implied violence could not happen right away. You may also be able to prove that you acted in self defense, that your statements were not threats, or that the weapon was not deadly.
Mixing Menacing with Other Criminal Charges and Domestic Violence
Often, a person doesn’t face Colorado menacing charges alone. The threat of violence is often part of a larger behavior that results in criminal charges and other consequences. For example, if a person brandished a knife and then stabbed the victim, that person may be charged both with felony menacing and felony assault with a deadly weapon.
If the threats came as part of a domestic dispute, the person could face menacing charges as a crime of domestic violence. In those cases, the charges will result in an automatic restraining order and increased criminal penalties. If the threats were made on social media, on certain military bases, or across state lines, a person may even face federal charges for breaking the Colorado menacing laws.
Arguments can get out of hand. When tempers rise, people can misunderstand poorly chosen words and can react to threats that aren’t there. When these conflicts result in Colorado menacing charges, you need the help of a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate the court system and defend your case.
At Aviso Law, LLC, our criminal defense attorneys have experience with the Colorado menacing laws. We are here to serve you from the initial arrest, through sentencing, and we can assist service members facing post-conviction separation. We will help you identify your options, and any defenses you may have, so you can choose the best way forward. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.