Under Colorado law, battery—sometimes referred to as “menacing”— is considered to be the act of intentionally causing fear of immediate body injury through physical or verbal threats. Alternatively, assault involves causing actual bodily injury to someone either knowingly or recklessly.
In Colorado, assault charges are classified into three different degrees with unique penalties for each level. First and second degree charges are considered aggravated assault, while third degree is considered simple assault. First and second degree assault are felonies, while third degree assault is charged as a misdemeanor.
Below, we’ve outlined the differences in the three degrees of assault in Colorado, along with their potential punishments.
First degree assault
First degree assault is considered to be the most serious type of assault. You can be charged with this type of assault if you knowingly cause serious injury, disfigurement, or disability to another person. You could also be charged with assault in the first degree if you cause serious bodily injury to someone because you were acting with extreme indifference to the value of human life and intentionally created a serious risk of death. First degree assault charges also may arise if you use a deadly weapon to threaten a police officer, fire fighter, prison employee, or other type of protected employee in the performance of his or her duties.
Penalties. Usually, first degree assault is considered a violent crime and charged as a class three felony, and punishable by a minimum of six years in prison. However, if you commit assault in the heat of passion—essentially, because you were provoked by the other person—assault charges can be reduced to a class five felony, potentially decreasing the length of your sentence to a minimum of two years.
Second degree assault
Much like first degree assault, there are many different situations where you could be charged with second degree assault. The main difference between the two types of offenses is that second degree assault often deals with bodily injury instead of serious bodily injury.
You can be charged with second degree assault if you knowingly or recklessly cause bodily injury to another person using a deadly weapon. You could also be charged with assault in the second degree if you cause harm to someone while trying to stop a police officer, firefighter, prison employee, or other protected employee from performing their duties. Second degree assault charges may also arise if you administer a drug to another person without their consent for the purpose of causing stupor, unconsciousness, or other physical or mental impairment or harm. In addition, you could be charged with assault for causing a detention staff member to come into contact with blood, urine, feces, vomit, or any other toxic material by any means if you are being lawfully detained in a detention center.
Penalties. Under state law, second degree assault is a crime of violence and a class four felony. Penalties include a minimum of four years in prison. However, if the judge deems the crime to have occurred in the heat of passion, your charges may be deemed a class six felony with a reduced sentenced of a minimum of 15 moths.
Third degree assault
This type of assault is defined as causing bodily injury to someone knowingly, recklessly, or through criminal recklessness by means of a deadly weapon. You can also be charged with third degree assault if you knowingly injure, threaten, harass, or annoy a police officer, firefighter, or other protected employee with a dangerous substance.
Penalties. In Colorado, third degree assault is considered a class 1 misdemeanor. However, since third degree assault is considered to be a high risk crime, the penalties may be increased to two years in prison.
Bodily injury versus serious bodily injury
Typically, serious bodily injury is required for first degree assault, while simple bodily injury is sufficient for second and third degree assault. Bodily injury may include physical pain, illness, or any impairment of a physical or mental condition. Alternatively, serious bodily injury is considered to be injury that involves a significant risk of death, disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any organ or part of the body. Serious bodily injury could also include second or third degree breaks, burns, or fractures.
As you are likely to have realized, the laws surrounding assault charges in Colorado are complex and oftentimes overwhelming. If you have been charged with any degree of assault, you should consult with a Colorado attorney with experience successfully handling assault charges. Your attorney can help explain the charges you are facing, and work with you to build a powerful defense.
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.