In Colorado, there are three degrees of assault. Each has different factors that determine what degree it is to be charged and the varying levels of punishment if convicted.
Assault with a deadly weapon is the most serious type of assault charge a Coloradoan can face, and a felony conviction like this can result in hefty penalties.
Here’s what anyone accused of an assault crime needs to know about the different degrees of assault in Colorado and the penalties associated with each.
How Degree of Assault is Determined in Colorado
There are three degrees of assault in Colorado. The first two degrees (first- and second-degree assault charges) are considered felonies, while the last one (third-degree assault) is considered a misdemeanor offense.
For all three, there are four factors that are taken into account to determine how it is charged, the first being whether or not a deadly weapon was used in the commission of the crime.
Factor 1: The Deadly Weapon
A deadly weapon is considered, under Colorado law, to be a firearm (loaded or unloaded), a bludgeon, or a knife. The statute also explicitly states that any other weapon, instrument, substance, or material that can be used to cause serious bodily injury or death may be considered a deadly weapon as well.
Factor 2: State of Mind
The second factor taken into consideration is the defendant’s state of mind during the assault. Did the offender intend to harm the victim or was their behavior reckless and resulted in injury?
Factor 3: Level of Injury
Third, the degree of bodily injury to the victim is measured. A victim that came away with minor injuries and little to no mental health issues is different than one who has sustained life-altering permanent damage, physically or otherwise.
Factor 4: Status of the Victim
Finally, whether the victim was an on-duty official such as a police officer, emergency medical worker, judge, firefighter, or employee of a prison or jail can change the level of assault charge an offender stands to face.
Below are the parameters defined by Colorado law for each of the three degrees of assault and their penalty ranges.
First Degree Assault
Under Colorado law, first-degree assault is committed when:
- There was intent to cause bodily harm and it was caused by a deadly weapon
- There was intent to seriously or permanently disfigure another person or to permanently disable them
- There were circumstances present during the assault that showed extreme indifference to human life and there was conduct knowingly engaged in that created risk of death to another and serious bodily injury occurred
- There was intent to cause serious bodily injury to an official, as outlined above
Penalties for First-Degree Assault
This is a Class 3 felony. It can result in a prison sentence of up to 32 years and fines for as much as $750,000.
Second Degree Assault
A person will be charged with second-degree assault if:
- There was an intent to cause serious bodily injury to someone else and that injury was caused by the use of a deadly weapon
- There was an intent to prevent someone who is a police officer or firefighter from doing their duty and bodily harm was caused
- A serious bodily injury was recklessly caused by the means of a deadly weapon
- Physical or mental impairment was caused by administering to another person, without their consent, a substance, preparation, or drug capable of producing harm
- Knowingly and violently, while lawfully in custody or confined, applied physical force against an official as they engaged in the performance of their duties
Penalties for Second-Degree Assault
This is a Class 4 felony and can result in up to six years in prison and fines of as much as $500,000. However, a person can face up to 16 years in prison if a deadly weapon was used or threatened to be used and serious bodily injury occurred.
Third Degree Assault
This crime occurs when:
- Bodily injury is recklessly or knowingly caused
- The defendant was acting with criminal negligence and any bodily injury was caused
- An official was made to come into contact with toxic substances or bodily fluids
Penalties for Third-Degree Assault
This is a Class 1 misdemeanor. It can result in up to two years in prison and fines of as much as $5,000.
If you are facing assault charges in Colorado, your best first steps include finding an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney. If you have questions about certain assault charges or need help mounting a solid defense, reach out to Andrew Bryant Law for advice!
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.