Assault can happen to anyone anywhere. Think about it: you’re at a party, enjoying yourself, when another party-goer infringes on your space; things flare out of control. The next day, you’re deep in serious criminal charges.
In fact, that’s exactly what happened at a party in Pueblo, Colorado in July 2020. An exchange of words ended with an off-duty police officer pinning another man against a vehicle, then slapping him. The incident landed the officer second-degree assault charges, a Class 4 felony in the state.
Second-degree assault charges may not be the final word, though. It’s not uncommon for the prosecution and defense to reach a deal rather than follow a case to completion. The criminal justice term is “plea bargain”.
Here’s what you need to know about assault charges and the role of plea bargains in Colorado.
Assault in Colorado
Colorado legally defines assault as “injuring another person”. It can count as a misdemeanor or felony – charges depend on the case circumstances.
There are three degrees of assault in Colorado. They are:
First Degree Assault
This assault charge indicates serious bodily injury incurred intentionally with the use of a deadly weapon.
Second Degree Assault
This charge involves intentional serious bodily injury without the use of a deadly weapon, or causing bodily injury with the use of a deadly weapon.
Third Degree Assault
When an injury results from negligence with a deadly weapon, the charge drops to third degree.
Serious bodily injury means fractures or broken bones, an injury that could leave a permanent scar or disfigurement, or 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Bodily injury is simply defined as pain.
The Penalties for Assault in Colorado
The penalties for assault depend on the degree. In order of gravity:
Class 3 Felony
First-degree assault is a Class 3 felony. It can result in up to 32 years in prison and fines as high as $750,000.
Class 4 Felony
The numbers increase as penalties decrease in Colorado, so second degree assault is labeled a Class 4 felony. You may face six years in prison if the crime lacks a deadly weapon or serious injury. If it does involve either, the prison sentence may climb to 16 years.
You may also be ordered to pay fines up to $500,000.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
Third-degree assault is a Class 1 misdemeanor. It can result in a maximum of two years behind bars and $5,000 fines.
Many cases, including first-degree assault, never see the inside of a courtroom. Cases may reach conclusions outside the courtroom through the plea bargain process.
Plea bargains form legally binding agreements between the prosecution and the defense. They resolve one or more of the charges against the defendant without going to trial.
An experienced attorney can help you to navigate a plea bargain with the prosecution. They’ll help you weigh the factors of a plea bargain – like evidence, allegations against you, likelihood of trial conviction, and your court’s workload. They can advise on and accept the best possible plea bargain for you.
The biggest advantage of a plea bargain: usually, the defendant pleads guilty to lesser charges. This often inspires the accused to take plea bargains when they’re offered. Just keep in mind that legal counsel can assess the most optimal outcome in your specific case.
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.