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Sentencing for Violent Crimes in Colorado

Some serious Colorado felonies are accompanied with a separately charged “Crime of Violence” designation. A conviction for a Crime of Violence carries a mandatory prison sentence, meaning that the judge has no choice but to sentence you to prison if you are convicted. The judge can increase the sentence, but cannot reduce it below the minimum mandatory defined by the statute. A Crime of Violence conviction requires that you serve a prison sentence that is at least at the midpoint of the “presumptive range” for that offense. For example, a Second Degree Assault charge carries a presumptive sentence of two to eight years. The midpoint of this range is five years. Therefore, if the Assault is charged as a Crime of Violence, then a conviction makes the five year prison sentence mandatory.

If you are facing Crime of Violence charges, you should call a lawyer that practices criminal defense in Colorado right away. Many factors will complicate your “exposure,” or possible sentence, and the possible sentences could be much more severe then you might imagine. For example, sentences for Crimes of Violence must be served consecutively, that is, one sentence must be served before the second sentence can be started. In a case where the District Attorney has charged multiple Crime of Violence counts, convictions will result in stacking the mandatory minimum sentences on top of each other. For example, two Second Degree Assault charges, each with a mandatory five year minimum, create a mandatory ten year sentence. The judge has no choice, and your criminal defense lawyer has no power to prevent this if you are convicted.

A Crime of Violence Designation also doubles the maximum sentence available to the judge. In the Second Degree Assault example above, the judge could sentence you to sixteen years prison (eight years doubled) if he chose to.

Crimes that are frequently charged as Crimes of Violence include:

  • First or Second Degree Assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated Robbery
  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Sex Offenses

Crimes against At-Risk Adults or Juveniles

If a “Dangerous Weapon” was used in the commission of the offense, there is an additional five year mandatory sentence, which must also be served consecutively to the sentence for the underlying charge(s).

The District Attorney may charge sex offenses as Crimes of Violence if there is any bodily injury, or if any threats, force, or intimidation are alleged in the case. Bodily Injury can be established merely by pain alone under Colorado law, and no actual physical injury need be present. There are also sex offenses not involving bodily injury or force that are nonetheless sentenced as Crimes of Violence. Sentences for multiple offenses must be served consecutively. For more related to sex offenses, please visit our Sexual Assault page.

Bodily Injury

A cut, abrasion, bruise, burn, or disfigurement; physical pain; illness; impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty; or any other injury to the body, no matter how temporary.

What is a crime of violence?
Colorado uses the term “Crime of violence” to classify ordinary criminal charges that are committed under special circumstances. According to C.R.S. 18-1.3-406, potential crimes of violence include:

  • Murder
  • First degree assault
  • Second degree assault
  • Any crime against an at-risk person
  • Kidnapping
  • A sexual offense
  • Aggravated Robbery
  • First degree arson
  • First degree burglary
  • Escape
  • Criminal extortion
  • First- or second-degree unlawful termination of a pregnancy

These crimes only become crimes of violence if the defendant possessed or threatened the use of a deadly weapon, or caused serious bodily injury or death to another person during the commission of the crime.

Is the Court required to impose a prison sentence if I am convicted of a crime of violence?
A person convicted of a crime of violence is not eligible for probation. C.R.S. 18-1.3-406 requires judges to sentence any person convicted of a crime of violence to a term of incarceration of at least the midpoint and up to twice the maximum number of years in the presumptive sentencing range as modified for an extraordinary risk crime.
Sentencing for crimes of violence is confusing and hard for lawyers and other court personnel to understand. If you are charged with a crime of violence, it is imperative that you hire an experienced lawyer who possesses the knowledge and expertise to help navigate you through the criminal process.
In the chart below, you will find the mandatory sentences for felony crimes of violence in Colorado:

Felonies Classified


Class 1 Felony

Life Sentence

Class 2 Felony

16-48 years in prison

Class 3 Felony

10-32 years in prison

Class 4 Felony

5-16 years in prison

Class 5 Felony

2-6 years in prison

Class 6 Felony

18 months to 4 years in prison

Can the judge modify my sentence to probation if I am convicted of a crime of violence?
The short answer is, yes. The longer answer is that the judge is initially required to sentence someone convicted of a crime of violence to prison. However, after 119 days have passed, the court is permitted to reconsider a defendant’s sentence and reduce it or impose a term of probation.

A judge may only modify a crime of violence sentence if she makes findings that the case is:

  • exceptional; and
  • involves unusual and extenuating circumstances.

If a judge decides to modify a crime of violence sentence, she must notify the state court administrator that she is modifying the sentence and provide the reasoning for such modification.