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Colorado Criminal Law: An Overview

The most common crimes in Colorado in 2014 were larceny and miscellaneous, non-aggravated assaults, according to the Colorado Universal Crime Reporting Program. Even the pettiest of thefts or least serious of assaults can carry significant legal and personal consequences, however.

Use LawInfo's criminal law articles to help educate yourself about Colorado's laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with a Colorado criminal law attorney in Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora or elsewhere in the state.

Crime Classifications in Colorado

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. Like many states, Colorado has two main classifications of criminal offenses: felonies and misdemeanors. Additionally, there are two classifications of minor criminal and non-criminal offenses: traffic infractions and petty offenses.

Felonies are the most serious offenses in Colorado and include murder, rape and kidnapping. There are six classes of felonies, four classes of drug-related felonies and unclassified felonies, which include offenses like intentionally polluting the air quality or participating in a prison riot.

Misdemeanors are less serious criminal offenses than felonies. They include non-lethal assault and most administrative (or "white collar") offenses. There are three classes of misdemeanors, two classes of drug-related misdemeanors, two classes of traffic misdemeanors and unclassified misdemeanors. Petty offenses include theft and offenses that result in the loss of a small amount of money, usually under $100.

Colorado's legislative staff published a complete list of offenses and their classifications you can use to determine the severity and possible penalties of your offense.

Colorado Miranda Warning

If you've watched any TV crime show, you're probably familiar with the scene when the police take a criminal into custody and recite, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." That's not a line out of fiction—anything you say to the police when you're arrested in real life can incriminate you in an American court of law.

The line you hear on TV is a part of the Miranda Warning, which is a statement Colorado police officers are required to recite informing you of your right to remain silent so as not to incriminate yourself during interrogation. It also informs you of your right to an attorney or an appointed one if you don't have one.

The police are only required to recite the Miranda Warning if they intend to interrogate you under custody. If they fail to recite this warning before interrogating you, whatever you say may be dismissed as inadmissible in court.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter in Colorado

Some states charge and sentence manslaughter offenses differently depending on whether the offense was voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is often called a "heat of passion" killing (such as when a scorned lover kills a cheating partner) while involuntary manslaughter is simply an accidental killing.

Colorado doesn't divide manslaughter into voluntary and involuntary offenses, however. If a killing was the result of:

  • Recklessness or intentional accessory to another person's suicide, it is a class 4 felony. (See Colorado Revised Statutes 18-3-104.)
  • Criminal negligence, it is a class 5 felony. (See § 18-3-105.)
  • Reckless or impaired driving (such as driving under the influence), it is a class 3 felony. (See § 18-3-106.)
  • Compromised emotions (i.e. a killing committed in the "heat of passion"), it is a class 3, second-degree murder felony. However, if the court finds that there was an interval of time between provocation and the murder in which the killer had pause to reflect and reason, the offense is elevated to a class 2 felony. (See § 18-3-103.)

Speak to an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified criminal defense lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local criminal defense attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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