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Colorado Criminal Defense Blog

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Often, people are confused about the difference between certain types of crimes because they sound so similar. Two of those crimes are sexual assault and unlawful sexual conduct.

Sexual assault is a crime that many people are aware of and there are seemingly consistent legislative updates surrounding this type of crime, but unlawful sexual conduct doesn’t get as much discussion. That is, until recently.

In the summer of 2020, the Colorado Court of Appeals expanded the definition of unlawful sexual contact based on a 2016 case.

In that case, a woman’s husband had beaten her with a belt and raped her. He was ultimately acquitted on sexual assault charges but was found guilty of unlawful sexual contact for using a belt to beat her on the buttocks.

This expanded definition of unlawful sexual contact will have a big impact on the way cases are tried in courts for this offense. Here’s what you need to know about unlawful sexual contact in Colorado and the penalties faced if found guilty.

What Constitutes Unlawful Sexual Contact in Colorado?

Under Colorado law, you commit unlawful sexual contact if you knowingly:

  • Touch the intimate parts of another person without their permission,
  • Cause someone to touch your intimate parts without their permission, or
  • Entice a child to expose their intimate parts or have sex with someone in order for you to have sexual gratification.

With the ruling in the Colorado Appeals Court, unlawful sexual conduct does not have to be committed with a body part – even using an inanimate object to touch another is considered unlawful contact.

Colorado Penalties of Unlawful Sexual Contact

If you are found guilty of unlawful sexual contact, then you most likely will be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. It is also considered an extraordinary risk crime, which carries a longer sentence than other misdemeanors.

The penalty for misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact includes up to two years in prison and fines for as much as $5,000.

If during the commission of the crime, the victim was compelled to submit by force, threat, or intimidation, or they were drugged, then the criminal act becomes a felony.

That can increase the penalties so that you can serve up to eight years in prison and be responsible for fines up to $500,000.

When a deadly weapon is used in the commission of the unlawful sexual contact, then it’s considered a violent crime in Colorado. That means you can face life in prison as a result of a minimum of five years.

Registration as a Colorado Sex Offender

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony charge of unlawful sexual contact, or you plead no contest or plead guilty, then you will also be required to register as a sex offender in Colorado.

That means that you will be required to regularly register with law enforcement where you live and include information for the registry such as:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Photo
  • Crimes and the dates of the conviction or convictions
  • Physical description
  • If known, any predatory habits
  • Whether or not your crimes categorize you as a sexually violent predator

Colorado Sexual Harassment Attorney

If you fail to register as a sex offender when you’re supposed to, that is a crime itself. It’s actually a Class 6 felony. The penalties for this include up to 18 months in prison and fines for as much as $100,000.

Understand your rights if you’re accused of unlawful sexual contact — as well as what types of contact counts.


About the Author:

Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.





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