Colorado Sexual Assault And Rape Charges Explained

Rape is one of the most serious criminal charges you can face. With ongoing sex offender registration and high maximum penalties, one allegation of non-consensual sex can change your life in drastic ways. Find out how Colorado sexual assault and rape charges work, and what penalties come with a conviction.

Colorado law breaks up sexual assault charges into two categories: rape and sexual contact. Which one you get charged with depends on what the prosecutor can prove happened in your particular case. This proof can be from witness testimony (creating “he said/she said” situations), videos or surveillance footage, forensic examinations of the alleged victim’s body, or other evidence. Let’s look at each category:

Rape Charges Require Sexual Penetration

Sexual assault counts as rape if it includes a knowing act of unwanted sexual penetration of any part of the victim’s body. That could mean:

  • Traditional sex (vaginal intercourse)
  • Oral sex (fellatio or cunnilingus)
  • Anal sex
  • Fingering
  • Penetration with an object

The unwanted or non-consensual portion of the charges can include situations where the sex occured:

  • Against the victim’s will (i.e. the victim said “no” or “stop” but the penetration happened anyway)
  • The victim was drunk, high, or mentally debilitated and unable to consent
  • The victim was physically helpless (including asleep) and unable to consent
  • The victim consented believing the person was his or her spouse
  • In a custodial situation like a prison or hospital where the defendant used his or her authority to coerce consent
  • In a medical situation where the penetration served no legitimate medical purpose

There are also Colorado statutory rape laws. Generally, the age of consent in Colorado is 17. Sex with a child under the age of consent is considered rape even if the child agrees unless:

  • The defendant is less than 10 years older than a teen age 15 or 16
  • The defendant is less than 4 years older than a victim age 15 or younger

In either case, a person married to an underage spouse cannot be guilty of statutory rape.

Penalties for Colorado Rape Charges

If you have been charged and convicted of sexual abuse based on rape allegations, the penalties can be very serious. At its least severe, rape without force or aggravating circumstances is a Class 4 felony with a sentence of 2 – 8 years in prison and $2,000 to $5,000 in fines. The consequences go up from there.

Rape will be charged as a Class 3 felony with a penalty of 4 -16 years in prison and $4,000 to $750,000 in fines if the sexual penetration occurred through:

  • Physical force or violence
  • Threat of force or violence (including a believable threat of death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain, or kidnapping)
  • Non-consensual drugging
  • Threat of future retaliation against the victim or someone else

It will be increased to a Class 2 felony with a sentence of 8 – 24 years in prison and $5,000 to $1 million in fines when:

  • The defendant was assisted by one or more other people
  • It was accomplished through the use of an actual or simulated deadly weapon
  • The victim suffers serious bodily injury (creating a substantial risk of death, permanent disfigurement, extended loss of use of a body part, broken bones, or 2nd or 3rd degree burns)

Sexual Contact Charges for Non-Consensual Groping or Petting

When the prosecutor cannot prove that actual penetration occurred, they may charge you with “unlawful sexual contact” instead of, or in addition to rape. Their theory in charging both is that even if the jury is not convinced sex actually occurred, they may still convict you for a less serious offense based on the foreplay or events leading up to the sexual act.

Unlawful sexual contact includes knowingly touching a victim’s intimate parts without their consent, or causing them to touch your intimate parts without their consent. This could include groping a woman’s breast or rubbing a man’s crotch for sexual purposes. You can also be charged if it appears you convinced a child to expose his or her intimate parts or have sex with a third person for your own sexual gratification.

Penalties for Colorado Unlawful Sexual Contact

Unlawful sexual contact is generally charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor with “extraordinary risk.” That means the penalty for this charge is 6 months to 2 years in jail and $500 to $5,000 in fines. However, as with rape, aggravating factors can increase the penalties.

Felony unlawful sexual contact carries a penalty of 2-8 years in prison and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000. These heightened penalties apply in cases of:

  • Force or threat of force
  • Drugging the victim
  • Intimidation or coercion

If your case involves the use or threat of a deadly weapon, you could face even higher penalties for a Colorado violent crime including 5 years to life in prison.

Consequences Continue with Colorado Sex Offender Registration

In addition to jail, fines, and probation or parole, defendants convicted of sexual crimes are required to register as sex offenders in the statewide database. You may also face lifetime supervision even after the term of your sentence is over. Registration includes regularly updating the local police of your:

  • Name (including aliases and nicknames)
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Vehicle information
  • Place of employment information
  • Appearance (by current photograph)
  • Fingerprints
  • E-mail addresses and online identities (for offenders convicted of child sex crimes)

Those with registration requirements must update this information at least every year (some must register as often as every 3 months) or within 5 days of a change of information. Missing that short registration window can expose you to new misdemeanor or felony charges and even more time in jail.

The purpose of sex offender registries is to protect the public from repeat offenders. However, as a consequence, defendants convicted of one-time sex assault or contact can find it difficult to find employment, take their children to school or extracurricular activities, or even find a place to live.

Defending Against Claims of Sexual Assault and Rape

Many felony rape and unlawful sexual contact cases result in “indeterminate sentences”. That means that the judge can enter a penalty range, but it is really up to the Department of Corrections to determine when you are actually released from jail or prison. That standard is very high. That is why it is crucial for you to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney before you consider pleading guilty to a sex offense of any kind.

Defending against this type of charge depends on the specific evidence the prosecutor has against you. Common defenses include that:

  • No sexual penetration occurred (you may still be convicted of unlawful sexual contact)
  • The victim consented
  • Someone else committed the act
  • The defendant was not involved in the act
  • The victim falsely accused the defendant for retaliation reasons
  • The victim regretted having sex and later claimed it was rape
  • Forensic evidence was improperly gathered
  • Forensic evidence was properly gathered but points to someone else or is inconclusive

Because sexual acts usually happen behind closed doors, there often isn’t a lot of proof about what happened. Your criminal defense attorney can help you gather evidence and testimony to create doubt in the jury’s minds about what happened and whether it was consensual sex or an unlawful sexual act. That doubt can lead to a “not guilty” verdict and save you from a lifetime of criminal consequences.

At Aviso Law, LLC, our criminal defense attorneys know just how severe a sex crime conviction can be. We are here to serve you and help you avoid a life-changing criminal conviction. We will help you identify weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, and any defenses you may have, so you can avoid a rape conviction and a lifetime of sex offender registration. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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