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What Is a Crime of Violence?

In Colorado, all felony offenses are subject to a range of penalties that a judge may impose following conviction. If the district attorney charges you with a “crime of violence” sentence enhancer, you will face drastically increased penalties. The following content addresses the basics of Colorado’s crime-of-violence sentence enhancement. For specific details about your case, please contact us directly at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., (719) 475-2555.

Enhanced Penalties for a Crime of Violence

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When a person is convicted of a felony in Colorado, the presiding judge will typically have the option to sentence the person to probation, community corrections, or the department of corrections for a term within the presumptive range of penalties. The “presumptive range of penalties” differs based on how the offense was classified.

If the person was convicted of a felony and the jury finds that the offense was a crime of violence, the presiding judge loses almost all discretion in sentencing. First, the judge cannot sentence that individual to probation or community corrections but must sentence him/her to the department of corrections. Second, the range of possible penalties increases. The judge must sentence the individual to at least the midpoint of the presumptive range, but may sentence the individual to a term as great as double the maximum of the presumptive range. Finally, the person will not be eligible for parole until he/she has served 75% of the sentence instead of 50%, which is the typical point in a sentence for parole eligibility.

Once sentenced in court, the person’s sentence cannot be suspended and he/she will be remanded to the custody of the department of corrections. However, in cases the judge considers to be exceptional, involving unusual and extenuating circumstances, the judge can reduce the sentence to a lesser sentence and include probation, if the person is otherwise eligible for probation. This sentence modification and reduction can become effective 119 days after being sentenced.

Constitutionality of Crime of Violence Enhancement

The constitutionality of the crime-of-violence sentence enhancement has been challenged based on the separation of powers doctrine, the equal protection clause, and the double jeopardy clause. See People v. Childs, 610 P.2d 101 (Colo 1980); People v. Goodman, 733 P.2d 1204 (Colo. 1987). The Supreme Court of Colorado has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of the statute.

When a Crime of Violence Is Charged

There are two components that must be present for a person to be eligible for a crime-of-violence enhancement.

The first component is the alleged offense itself. The following offenses are considered violent crimes in Colorado:

  • Murder (Criminal Code § 18-3-102)
  • First or Second-Degree Assault (Criminal Code § 18-3-202 and 18-3-203)
  • Kidnapping (Criminal Code § 18-3-302)
  • Sexual Offense (Criminal Code § 18-3-401 - § 18-3-417)
  • Aggravated Robbery (Criminal Code § 18-4-302)
  • First-Degree Arson (Criminal Code § 18-4-102)
  • First-Degree Burglary (Criminal Code § 18-4-202)
  • Criminal Extortion (Criminal Code § 18-3-207)
  • First or Second-Degree Unlawful Termination of Pregnancy (Criminal Code § 18-35-106)

Additionally, any unlawful sexual offense, pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute § 18-3-411, in which the accused caused bodily injury to the victim or used threats, intimidation, or force against the victim, is also eligible.

The second component to a crime of violence is that during the commission, conspiracy, attempt to commit the offense, or in the immediate flight from the offense, the accused used a deadly weapon, possessed and threatened the use of a deadly weapon, and/or caused serious bodily injury or death to any person except another participant in the offense. If these two elements are present, then a person may face a sentence enhancement.

Additional Enhancements

There is an additional sentence enhancement within crimes of violence. If the deadly weapon is a "dangerous weapon" pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute § 18-12-101 and § 18-12-102, or a semi-automatic assault weapon, defined as a semi-automatic centerfire firearm that is equipped with a detachable magazine with a capacity of twenty or more rounds of ammunition, the sentence will be enhanced further. The judge shall impose an additional sentence of five years to the department of corrections. This five-year term will be in addition to the mandatory sentence imposed for the offense, and must be served consecutively.

If Charged with a Crime of Violence, Talk to Us Immediately

If the district attorney intends to pursue the crime-of-violence enhancement, the accused is entitled to notice. The felony indictment or information must indicate that the state is pursuing the enhancement. The filing of the sentence enhancement is typically done at the first appearance, or when the charges are filed. While this is typical, the district attorney can amend the information or indictment to include the sentence enhancement at a later time if he/she feels that the allegations establish probable cause that the elements of a crime of violence are satisfied.

This is a serious allegation. If you or a loved one is charged with a violent crime, you need an experienced and knowledgeable Colorado Springs defense lawyer on your side. Our team at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., has decades of experience defending the accused. Call today to set up an appointment to discuss your options and possible defenses. The number to dial is (719) 475-2555.

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