The Colorado criminal justice system takes the crimes of menacing and stalking very seriously. Colorado judges often hand out harsh penalties for these offenses, including years in prison in some cases. Although these two crimes bear similarities, they are ultimately distinct.
You commit the crime of menacing by intentionally acting or speaking in a way that convinces the victim that you are about to inflict serious bodily injury upon them. The threat of harm must be immediate. You can be guilty of menacing even if you did not intend to hurt the victim. The crime of menacing is complete as soon as the victim anticipates severe and immediate bodily harm.
Colorado will not necessarily charge you with a felony for menacing—misdemeanor charges are possible. Felony level charges kick in when a deadly weapon is involved. Obviously, under almost any circumstances, pulling a knife on someone would qualify as menacing with a deadly weapon.
In some cases, however, even your fist might qualify as a “deadly weapon.” Merely claiming to possess a deadly weapon is enough to convict you. If Colorado charges you with felony menacing, you need a Denver stalking defense attorney.
Misdemeanor menacing is a Class 3 misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of six months of incarceration. Felony menacing is a Class 5 felony that carries a sentence of one to three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
The crime of stalking can be committed in three different ways:
- Making a plausible threat to the victim and proceeding to follow or repeatedly harass the victim, a member of the victim’s immediate family, or someone with whom the victim has had a relationship;
- Making a plausible threat to and repeatedly attempting to contact the victim, a member of the victim’s immediate family, or someone with whom the victim has had a relationship; or
- Repeatedly attempting to follow, approach, or communicate with the victim, a member of the victim’s immediate family, or someone with whom the victim has had a relationship. You must do this in a manner that causes the recipient to suffer serious emotional distress, and the nature of your acts must be such that they would cause a reasonable person to suffer the same distress.
Stalking is always charged as a felony, although a misdemeanor charge of harassment is possible for less serious behavior.
Colorado can charge you with a Class 5 felony for a first offense that doesn’t have aggravating factors. A Class 5 felony carries a possible prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of up to $100,000.
Colorado can charge you with a Class 4 felony under the following circumstances:
- Your offense constitutes a second or further offense within seven years; or
- You were under a restraining order or some other legal compulsion (a bond condition, for example) not to contact the victim.
Penalties for a Class 4 felony include two to six years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. A Denver stalking defense lawyer can maximize your chances of getting an acquittal.
Menacing vs. Stalking
The main differences between menacing and stalking are:
- Menacing requires only a single act, while stalking involves a repeated pattern of behavior.
- Stalking, unlike menacing, can be committed by someone who does not realize they are causing distress.
- The prosecutor can charge you with menacing as a misdemeanor, while stalking is always a felony.
Other differences also exist. For instance, the way these cases are handled and the most popular defenses used can vary widely.
Let’s look at two hypothetical scenarios that illustrate principles of the crimes of menacing and stalking.
Scenario #1: Road Rage
An example of behavior that might result in a “road rage” menacing charge would be waving your gun at another driver after a traffic dispute. It wouldn’t matter whether the gun was loaded. The crime of menacing has occurred if you meant for the other driver to believe it was loaded and that you intended to use it.
Scenario #2: The Jilted Lover
“Staking out” your ex-girlfriend’s home, opening her mail, and threatening to hurt her new boyfriend might qualify as stalking under Colorado law. While there is no bright-line definition for stalking, a State will balance various factors under the circumstances of the case to determine if the charge is appropriate.
Colorado Criminal Prosecutions Move Quickly
The Colorado criminal justice system is aggressive, confusing, and merciless to defendants who represent themselves or retain inadequate counsel. But fear not, Mr. Rubinstein has almost 25 years of experience defending people accused of crimes. If you are facing a stalking or menacing charge, don’t delay. Call Denver menacing & stalking defense attorney Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., or contact us online for a free initial evaluation.