Assault and At-Risk Youth

Educators, counselors, and caretakers of youth with disabilities provide an invaluable service to children, families, and society. Those who work in these fields do so with a passion to provide education, care, and guidance to those who suffer intellectually and emotionally. While rewarding, these occupations also carry risks that other professions do not. When a situation gets out of control, caretakers and educators can find themselves charged with very serious crimes.

What Is Assault, Legally?

Assault and At-Risk YouthColorado defines assault as knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person. C.R.S. 18-3-204(a). Bodily injury is defined as “physical pain, illness, or any impairment or physical or mental condition.” C.R.S. 18-1-901. This is a broad definition. Simply causing someone any pain can amount to bodily injury. Consequently, it does not take much to cause someone “bodily injury.”  People accused of causing someone to suffer a bodily injury are often charged with 3rd degree assault, a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the victim is “at-risk,” the same offense is upgraded to a Class 6 felony.  The difference is significant.


A Class 1 misdemeanor carries a possibility of up to a 364-day jail sentence and up to a $1,000 fine. However, a conviction for assault on a juvenile is an “extraordinary risk” crime and carries an enhanced sentencing range. This charge carries a possible Department of Corrections sentence of between one to two years and a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000. Obviously, for an educator, a conviction of this type can be devastating both personally and professionally.

Identifying At-Risk Youth

A youth is “at-risk” if they are younger than eighteen years old and has any of the following disabilities:

(a) Is impaired because of the loss of or permanent loss of use of a hand or foot or because of blindness or the permanent impairment of vision of both eyes to such a degree as to constitute virtual blindness;

(b) Is unable to walk, see, hear, or speak;

(c) Is unable to breathe without mechanical assistance;

(d) Is a person with an intellectual and developmental disability as defined in section 25.5-10-202, C.R.S.;

(e) Has a mental health disorder, as defined in section 27-65-102;

(f) Is mentally impaired as the term is defined in section 24-34-501 (1.3)(b)(II), C.R.S.;

(g) Is blind as that term is defined in section 26-2-103 (3), C.R.S.; or

(h) Is receiving care and treatment for a developmental disability under article 10.5 of title 27, C.R.S.  C.R.S. 18-6.5-102.

What Are Your Options When Accused?

When caretakers find themselves charged with assaulting an at-risk youth, it usually stems from an attempt to subdue a minor who is acting in a manner that could cause harm to themselves or others. Often, the issue becomes whether the adult was attempting to protect others and/or acting in self-defense. Developing a strong defense against this crime requires a critical review of surveillance videos, witness statements, and an understanding of the juvenile’s disability and history.

If you are an educator, caretaker, or another professional that works with physically, psychologically, or emotionally disabled youth and you find yourself charged with assaulting an at-risk juvenile, you need legal help. Not only is your liberty at stake, but your professional future is also at stake. The Colorado Springs violent crime defense attorneys at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. are experienced in handling this type of situation and developing the best possible defense for your case.