Understanding the Varying Levels of Assault in Colorado

Categories: Criminal Defense

man and woman fighting

Assault is by far one of the more common criminal charges seen in the state of Colorado. It is charged by degree – from first degree through third. First Degree Assault is the most serious, while Third Degree is not. Third Degree is also the most common assault charge issued in the state, and is a misdemeanor offense. As a defendant, or someone being accused of assault, it is imperative that you understand the varying levels of an assault charge and how circumstances can quickly elevate a misdemeanor to a felony, if you are not careful. Most importantly, you should seek counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are being questioned for or accused of an assault crime.

Convictions for First and Second Degree Assault cases are much more serious and carry mandatory prison sentences. In addition to prison and fines, you could face long-term consequences if you are convicted. Therefore, now is the time to do your own due diligence and become familiar with assault charges and penalties.

Assault in the Third Degree

This is defined under the statute as “knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person.” In some cases, injury by accidental discharge of a weapon could be charged as Third Degree Assault. There must, however, be an injury in order to be charged with Third Degree Assault. Pain is considered an injury – even if there is no physical damage.

If convicted of Third Degree Assault, you could face:

  1. A first degree misdemeanor
  2. Possibly two years in prison

Assault in the Second Degree

This assault charge has various definitions. In order to be found guilty, the District Attorney must prove one of the following (beyond a reasonable doubt):

  1. You intentionally caused bodily injury to another person via deadly weapon.
  2. You intended to cause injury.
  3. You recklessly caused injury via a deadly weapon.
  4. You intentionally drugged someone without his or her knowledge and/or consent.
  5. You caused injury while intentionally trying to hinder law enforcement or first responders.
  6. You applied violent force to a government official.

Some of these are considered crimes of violence and carry a mandatory prison sentence if you are convicted. In this instance, a judge could sentence you to a minimum of five years in prison for Second Degree Assault. It is also considered a Fourth Degree Felony (F4) and carries a maximum of eight years in prison.

Assault in the First Degree

Just like a Second Degree Assault charge, First Degree carries multiple definitions, and the definition that you are charged with will ultimately determine your sentence. The District Attorney must prove one of the following:

  1. That you intended to cause injury and did cause the injury you intended.
  2. You intended to seriously disfigure or disable a person.
  3. You acted with extreme indifference to the value of human life.
  4. You created a grave risk of danger and, therefore, caused serious injury as a result.
  5. You threatened law enforcement, a government official, first responder, or prison staff with a deadly weapon and caused injury in the process.

The charge will depend on the mitigated facts of your act. If you were aggressive or mean-spirited, it is likely that you will receive the maximum sentence.

What About Self-Defense?

While self-defense is a common defense tactic for the charge of assault, it does not apply in all situations. In order to prove such, you need to present evidence that you only used violent force in order to protect yourself from the supposed “victim.” But, you must show that you only used as much force as justified to defend yourself. Once the supposed victim was disabled, if you continued your assault, you are no longer acting in self-defense; therefore, you could be charged with assault regardless of whether you initiated contact in self-defense.

Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. – Experienced, Reliable Criminal Defense

If you have been arrested for assault – whether first, second, or third degree – it is imperative that you speak with an attorney. The circumstances of your case could determine if you receive a mandatory minimum prison sentence or probation. Speak with attorney Mark S. Rubinstein today to explore your options. You can schedule a free consultation at 970-704-0888 or request your initial appointment online.

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.