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Colorado Criminal Defense Blog

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Most people understand the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. Unfortunately, not that many people are familiar with the legal specifics related to misdemeanor classes in Colorado and the penalties associated with them.

Because of this, when some people find themselves facing misdemeanor charges, they may not understand how serious they can be.

A group of Colorado construction workers who were recently alleged to have been paid under the table is a good example. Wage theft allegations were made against a number of construction companies who restored several building projects in Denver.

This unclassified misdemeanor may not seem as if it’s a big deal, but if the allegations are proven true in court, it’s something they could all wind up paying dearly for in the end.

Here’s what you need to know about misdemeanors in Colorado including how they’re classified and the penalties a person can face if they are charged with one.

Misdemeanors in Colorado

Colorado, just as in every other state, divides crimes into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors in this state are broken into three different types, which include:

  • Traffic misdemeanors
  • Drug misdemeanors
  • Regular misdemeanors

The regular misdemeanors are divided into a few basic categories, which include:

  • Unclassified misdemeanors
  • Class 1 misdemeanors
  • Class 2 misdemeanors
  • Class 3 misdemeanors

Each of these different classifications has it’s own sentencing range.

Regular Misdemeanor Classes and Penalties

The different types of regular misdemeanors in Colorado can be categorized as either classified or unclassified and are such that Class 1 is the most serious and Unclassified the least serious charge. Learn more about how the penalties for each are determined below.

Classified Misdemeanors

Class 1

These misdemeanors are the most serious type in the state and are generally punished by up to 18 months in jail and fines up to $5,000. An example of a Class 1 misdemeanor is fighting in public.

Note, there are also Class 1 misdemeanor charges considered to maintain “extraordinary risk.” This additional description typically involves some level of violence and can add six months to the standard 18-month jail sentence.

Examples of extraordinary risk Class 1 misdemeanors include third-degree assault, child abuse, sexual assault, and failure to register as a sex offender.

Class 2

These misdemeanors carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000. An example of a Class 2 misdemeanor is the theft of property worth less than $750.

Class 3

These misdemeanors can end in a punishment of up to six months imprisonment and fines up to $750. Being convicted of prostitution is an example of a Class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado.


There is a group of misdemeanors called unclassified misdemeanors. These have different sentences and fines associated with them that are guided by the statutes that define the underlying crime. If a misdemeanor is defined by state law but doesn’t carry with it a classification or penalty, then unclassified misdemeanors can result in up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000.

Drug Misdemeanors

Denver Drug Misdemeanor Defense

Under the law in Colorado, misdemeanors associated with drugs are placed in their own category and are typically charged as a Level 1 or Level 2 drug misdemeanor.

Penalties for a conviction on Level 1 misdemeanor charges involving drugs include up to 18 months in jail and fines up to $5,000. Level 2 drug misdemeanors can be punished by a 12-month jail term and fines of $750.

It is important to note that there are different sentencing options for drug possession misdemeanors now. Crimes like possession of more than six ounces of marijuana (Level 1 drug misdemeanor) may end in either six months in jail, two years of probation, or fines of $1,000.

Note that criminal cases involving drugs always factor in an offender’s prior record as well. Penalties increase with each subsequent conviction of a drug misdemeanor.

Traffic Misdemeanors

Traffic misdemeanors are also in a class of their own under Colorado law. Offenses are classified as either Class 1 or Class 2 traffic misdemeanors here.

A conviction on a traffic misdemeanor can result in penalties ranging from zero to 12 months behind bars and responsibility for fines that run from a few hundred up to a thousand dollars.

Class 1

These traffic misdemeanors can put you in jail for up to one year and require you to pay fines up to $1,000. An example of a Class 1 traffic misdemeanor in Colorado is engaging knowingly in speeding contests.

Class 2

This traffic misdemeanor level can put you in jail for up to three months and require you to pay fines up to $300. Reckless driving is an example of a Class 2 traffic misdemeanor.

Not All Convictions Result in Jail Time

With misdemeanors in Colorado, not all convictions necessarily result in jail time. Depending on your individual case, you may simply be ordered to complete probation and pay restitution to any victims of the crime.

This is especially true when you don’t have any prior convictions and did not commit any other crimes along with the misdemeanor for which you were found guilty.

Denver Criminal Defense

Facing criminal charges can be scary, especially if you don’t understand the statutes and laws surrounding the crimes for which you’ve been charged. If you have questions about the Misdemeanor charges you face, your next step is to reach out for professional legal advice!

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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