If an argument gets out of hand and turns physical or a bad driving decision results in a criminal assault conviction, you could face up to several years in prison. Find out how an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you fight back against Colorado assault charges, and what to expect if the jury finds you guilty.
In this blog post I will discuss Colorado assault charges. I will explain the consequences of different levels of assault, and I will review some of the most common defenses to the crime.
Understanding Colorado Assault Charges
In Colorado, if you intentionally make physical contact with someone causing injury you can be charged with assault. This is true whether or not you meant to cause the injury itself. However, the consequences that come with a Colorado assault charges depend on what happened, what injury resulted, and who was involved in the incident.
What is “Serious Bodily Injury”?
Most Colorado assault charges come down to whether the person charged caused “serious bodily injury”. It can be hard for you, as the defendant, to know if this applies to your case. Serious bodily injury occurs any time the conduct created a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, or long-term loss or impairment of a bodily function or organ. It can include broken bones, or second or third degree burns. This also includes injuries that develop after the initial assault, like concussions or spinal injuries.
Third Degree Misdemeanor Assault
Third degree assault is the most common and least serious type of assault charge in the Colorado criminal system. It covers everything from a domestic violence incident, to a bar fight, to road rage. In a third degree assault case, the prosecutor will have to show that you knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to someone else, or that you negligently cause injury to someone else using a deadly weapon. Third degree assault is often defined in the negative. That means it won’t qualify if:
- Serious bodily injury results
- A deadly weapon is involved (other than through negligence)
- A police officer, firefighter, EMS, or other public servant was involved
- A protected person (like a child, senior, or disabled adult) was involved
Third degree assault is a Class 1 misdemeanor and is considered an “extraordinary risk crime”. That means the maximum possible penalty is 2 years in the county jail. You could also face probation, as well as fines and costs.
Second Degree Felony Assault
In more serious cases, you may be charged with the felony of second degree assault. This charge applies if the prosecutor can show that you:
- Intentionally injure another person
- Intentionally caused serious bodily injury (without a deadly weapon)
- Intentionally or recklessly caused bodily injury using a deadly weapon
- Intended to cause bodily injury, but in fact caused serious bodily injury
- Interfered with a police officer or firefighter’s work resulting in bodily injury to anyone
- Use physical, violent force against a police officer, firefighter, prison guard, or judge while they are working
- Drug someone without their consent.
- Choked or strangled another person.
Second degree assault is a Class 4 felony, which means a conviction could result in 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000. You may also face probation or parole, which each come with their own terms and conditions.
First Degree Felony Assault
The most serious types of Colorado assault charges are first degree felony assaults. These apply if the prosecutor can show that you:
- Intentionally caused serious bodily injury to someone using a deadly weapon
- Knowingly created a grave risk of death which resulted in injury
- Intentionally maimed, disfigured, or amputated a part of another person’s body
- Threatened a police officer or firefighter with a deadly weapon meaning to cause serious bodily injury.
First degree assault is a Class 3 felony, which has a penalty of 4 to 12 years in prison and a fine of $3,000 to $750,000.
Changing the Consequences of Colorado Assault Charges
Many forms of Colorado assault charges are considered “crimes of violence”. If the facts in your case qualify, the judge is legally required to impose at least five years in prison. If you committed domestic violence (against a spouse, romantic partner, or household member) or child abuse, your sentence may also be increased, or you may have additional terms placed on your probation or parole.
On the other hand, some first and second degree assault cases qualify as “heat of passion” crimes, where you were provoked into doing the assault. Those cases can be charged as a lower-class felony, reducing your possible prison time if you are convicted.
Defending Against Colorado Assault Charges
With such severe consequences, you will want to take your Colorado assault charges seriously. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you go through the facts of your case and identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument, as well as possible legal defenses you have to any conviction. These may include:
- You weren’t the one who caused the injury
- You didn’t cause any injury
- You weren’t using a deadly weapon
- You didn’t know the person involved was legally allowed to do what they were doing (such as undercover police or repossession agents)
- You weren’t behaving recklessly
- You didn’t know what you were doing
- You were acting in self defense
- You were trying to protect someone else
Even if the defenses in your case are slim, your criminal defense attorney may also be able to negotiate with the prosecuting attorney to allow you to plead guilty to a less severe degree of assault charge. This can reduce the consequences of your conviction, and help you get back to your life more quickly.
At Aviso Law, LLC, our criminal defense attorneys have experience with all varieties of Colorado assault charges. We are here to serve you whether you are facing a simple misdemeanor or life-changing felony. 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.