If you have been convicted of a felony, it’s important to understand the laws on POWPO, or possession of a weapon by a previous offender. In this post, we’ll look at what the law means, what weapons qualify, and what penalties are involved.
There are a lot of laws and regulations regarding the use of firearms and other weapons in Colorado, but one of the least well-known is POWPO. Quite simply, an individual who was previously convicted for a felony is prohibited from the possession of a deadly weapon. If that individual knowingly possesses, uses, or carries upon his or her person a deadly weapon, they are committing a crime. The law applies whether the individual is in Colorado or any other state. The charge of POWPO comes with serious consequences, and can be paired with charges for other offenses, like drug trafficking or robbery.
The law on POWPO is not limited to firearm possession, either. Other deadly weapons – like knives or explosives – are also included.
For example, knives are considered weapons in Colorado if the blade exceeds three-and-a-half inches in length. This is true whether an individual who uses, wears, or carries any such knife. According to one statute, a knife is any blade or dangerous instrument intended to cut, stab, or tear. However, knives intended for the sports of hunting and fishing are permitted by law.
POWPO Possession Charges
The law divides POWPO into categories by type of weapon.
Possession by a previous offender of the following items, termed firearms, will result in a Class 6 felony charge:
- Automatic firearm
- Any other device that is capable of shooting explosives, cartridges, or bullets
The charge will be raised to a Class 5 felony if the individual was previously convicted for arson, burglary, or any other felony with the involvement of the use of a deadly weapon or force. The POWPO charge will apply within 10 years of the original conviction without incarceration, or within 10 years of the release date with incarceration or supervision.
A new sentence for POWPO will run consecutive to any sentences the individual is serving. If the offender is a minor, the new sentence for adjudication will apply if the act would equal a felony when committed by an adult.
Dangerous Weapon Possession
Possession by a previous offender of the following items will result in a Class 5 felony charge:
- Ballistic knife
- Firearm silencer
- Machine gun
- Short rifle
- Short shotgun
Additional POWPO charges of weapons in this category will be charged as Class 4 felonies.
Illegal Weapon Possession
Possession by a previous offender of the following items will result in a Class 1 misdemeanor charge:
- Metallic knuckles
- Gas gun
Now let’s look at what penalties are attached to each charge.
Penalties for Colorado POWPO Charges
Class 4 felony: A convicted individual may be incarcerated for two to six years and fined between $2,000 and $500,000.
Class 5 felony: A conviction will result in one to three years of incarceration and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
Class 6 felony: The penalties for this category include 12 to 18 months in prison and fines between $1,000 to $100,000.
Class 1 misdemeanor: If you are convicted of this offense, you may receive penalties of six to 18 months in jail, fines of $500 to $5,000, or both.
Defending Yourself against POWPO Charges
POWPO is a serious charge in the state of Colorado. Additional felony charges can severely restrict your freedoms, even after your release. That’s why it is essential to work with a skilled Denver criminal defense lawyer if you are accused of POWPO. Reach out today for a free case review and we’ll begin building a solid defense for you.
What kind of defense strategies can help?
Since inmates are routinely given written notices of POWPO regulations upon release from incarceration, it is not an acceptable defense that the defendant possessed a weapon without knowledge. However, if the defendant acted in self-defense, that may be a reasonable defense to the charges.
If a knife is the weapon in question, an affirmative defense is that the knife was being used for sport in hunting or fishing.
Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, other strategies may be better suited to your situation, but that is something best determined by a knowledgeable POWPO attorney.
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” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.