September 19, 2023
Assault is a very serious offense, and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony in Colorado depending upon the circumstances of the alleged offense. This may carry jail or prison time, as well as hefty fines. Moreover, if convicted, you will be left with a criminal record of violent crime that can compromise your ability to attain housing, employment, loans, and child custody, among other issues.
If charged with assault in Denver, you should make every effort to understand what the actual law is, the level of charges you face, and the factors that may affect the severity of the charge. You should also be aware of the potential defenses that may help your case, and discuss with your attorney which might be appropriate for your situation.
Levels of Assault in Colorado
In the state of Colorado, assault charges are classified as first, second, or third degree assault depending upon the circumstances and degree of injury.
First Degree Assault
First degree assault occurs when the offender intentionally causes serious bodily injury, often using or threatening to use a deadly weapon. First-degree assault charges are commonly pressed for assault of protected employees or police officers in the course of duty. First-degree assault is considered a Class 3 felony, except for crimes of passion, which are considered to be Class 5 felonies.
Second Degree Assault
An assault is charged as second-degree assault if the offender intentionally causes bodily harm to another using a deadly weapon, intentionally causes severe bodily harm to another without a deadly weapon, injures a protected employee or police officer without a weapon, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another using a deadly weapon or dangerous substance. In Colorado, second degree assault is charged as a Class 4 felony with the exception of crimes of passion, which are charged as Class 6 felonies.
Third Degree Assault
In third degree assault, the offender knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another using a deadly weapon, knowingly threatens or harasses a protected employee or police officer, or causes bodily injury with a dangerous substance to a protected employee or police officer. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Common Assault Defenses
Most assault defenses focus upon the intent to cause bodily harm, self-defense, or actual innocence.
It is well-established that individuals have the right to protect themselves against reasonable threats of bodily harm. Therefore, self-defense is one of the most common assault defenses.
In order to prove that the defendant was acting out of self-defense, the defense must demonstrate that the defendant was under threat or reasonably perceived threat of unlawful force or bodily harm, has no prior record of assault, and was unable to escape or evade the situation.
Importantly, a physical altercation in which both parties willingly engaged does not constitute self-defense. In this case consent may be a more relevant defense.
Defense of Others
A defense of others defense is similar to self-defense, differing only in that the defendant acted to defend another person. Similarly, there must be a threat or reasonable perceived threat of harm to the third party. A witness statement from the third party may be helpful in proving defense of others.
If the defendant and alleged assault victim consented to engage in an activity in which injury was foreseeable, such as a fight, the assault charges may be reduced or dropped. There must, however, be evidence that the alleged victim consented to engage in the harmful activity.
An assault victim may misidentify the assailant, especially because an assault is often traumatic, and the resultant injuries and may impair the victim’s memory. If the defendant was wrongfully accused, a misidentification defense may be appropriate.
If the defendant did not commit the assault and can prove that he or she not nearby when the incident allegedly took place, an alibi defense may be possible. In this case, evidence or witness statements that the defendant was elsewhere cast reasonable doubt upon the defendant’s involvement.
Failure to Meet the Burden
To convict the defendant of criminal charges, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. This is known as the burden of proof.
If the prosecution cannot provide sufficient evidence that the defendant committed the alleged assault, the jury must find the defendant not guilty. A defense attorney may therefore challenge credibility, validity, or relevance of evidence presented by the prosecution in order to convince the jury that the burden of proof has not been met.
If you or a loved one are facing assault charges, retain the best possible Denver assault defense attorney to ensure that your rights are protected and maximize your chance of a favorable outcome.
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 designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.