February 21, 2024
Society heavily condemns sex crimes – and the law reflects that. Still, many cases sex crimes remain unreported or unsolved. According to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN), 995 out of 100 perpetrators of sexual assault never go to jail.
This makes an overturned verdict for a sex crim feel even more egregious–especially if based on a technicality. In Denver, a recently appealed case was overturned due to improper references to the criminal charge process during the trial.
The appeal panel judges believed a prosecution witness’s statements inferred that only guilty people receive charges. They thought it improperly implied the guilt of that case’s defendant.
Even though the convictions covered six charges of sexual assault on a child, the defendant may get a retrial.
Here’s what you need to know about current laws and penalties surrounding sexual assault in Colorado.
Sexual Assault in Colorado
Colorado defines sexual assault or rape as the act of knowingly committing unwanted sexual penetration.
Rape happens against the victim’s will, whether they are conscious, debilitated, or physically helpless. This covers instances in which victims might be drunk, high, or unconscious.
Sexual penetration under Colorado law encompasses these acts:
- Oral copulation
- Vaginal intercourse
- Penetration with a foreign object
- Anal sex
Groping intimate parts does not constitute sexual assault. Instead, the law categorise that action as unlawful sexual contact.
CO Penalties for Sexual Assault
In general, Colorado charges sexual assault as a felony. Sexual assault laws also call this crime one of “extraordinary risk”, which incurs significant maximum sentencing.
Sexual Assault Without Force
If force was not used in the commission of the crime, and the victim was not injured, it is a Class 4 felony. It can result in a sentence of eight years in prison and fines as high as $500,000.
The convicted defendant will also have to register in Colorado as a sex offender.
Sexual Assault by Force or Drugging
Several circumstances can make sexual assault a Class 3 felony.
- Physical force or violence took place
- Force or violence were threatened
- The victim was drugged without their consent
- The victim believed they were under threat of death, pain, kidnapping, or serious bodily injury
- The victim feared retaliation against him/herself or a loved one if they refused sex
It is punishable by up to 16 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. Convictions requires registration as a sex offender.
Sexual Assault by a Gang, Serious Injury, or Use of a Deadly Weapon
Colorado charges a Class 2 felony in the following instances:
- If one or more persons aided the sexual assault
- The defendant was armed with a deadly weapon—or appeared to be
- The victim sustained serious injuries
This felony can be punished by a maximum of 24 years in prison and $1 million fines. Again, those convicted must register as a sex offender.
The guilty verdict reversal in the Denver case demonstrates the fragility of sexual assault cases in the courts. Defendants have rights, no matter the accusations, including the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.