December 9, 2023
A Morgan County man is currently in police custody facing first-degree assault charges for allegedly assaulting a 76-year-old man.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office responded to a medical emergency on February 14, but at the scene, officers quickly realized that this victim’s medical emergency wasn’t related to an accident or fall, but rather, he was an assault victim.
If convicted, the defendant could serve 24 years in prison. That’s a far cry from simple assault, which usually is not initially punishable by a jail sentence because it’s a misdemeanor-level offense.
So how do you go from zero jail time to more than two decades in prison?
Well, the age of the alleged victim can actually make a dramatic difference in an assault conviction here. You see, Colorado enhances penalties drastically when an assault case involves an elderly or disabled person.
Three Degrees of Assault in Colorado
In Colorado, assault involves knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully causing bodily harm to another. Assault can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the degree of the charge.
The degree of assault is determined by the level of bodily injury to the victim:
The defendant does not intend to cause bodily harm but does so negligently or recklessly with the use of a deadly weapon. Third-degree assault is only a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in prison.
The defendant intentionally causes the victim serious bodily injury without a weapon, recklessly causes bodily injury with a deadly weapon or dangerous substance, or intentionally causes serious bodily harm without a deadly weapon. Second-degree assault is a felony punishable by up 2-6 years of imprisonment.
The defendant intentionally causes the victim serious bodily harm, often with the threat or use of a deadly weapon. First-degree assault is a felony punishable by 4-12 years in prison.
Any time an offender, by threat or bodily action, knowingly places or attempts to place the victim under imminent fear of serious bodily injury, this is considered “menacing” and is a completely separate charge from assault.
Menacing is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in prison. However, if it involves the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon, it flips to a felony charge punishable by 1-3 years in prison.
So what happens when an assault is against someone older or disabled?
Colorado Assault of an Elderly or Disabled Person
Colorado law defines elderly and disabled persons in the following terms:
- Elderly: Anyone over the age of 60
- Disabled: Anyone over the age of 18 who is impaired due to the loss of a hand or foot, is unable to walk, speak or hear, is mentally ill or intellectually or disabled.
Assaulting any person defined as one of these two classes always results in a felony charge regardless of the degree or circumstances surrounding the alleged offense.
There is no change in the way an offender is charged when they are accused of assaulting an elderly or disabled person, but convictions are subject to enhanced sentencing as follows:
- First-degree assault: 8-24 years in prison, or if committed as a crime of passion, 2-6 years in prison.
- Second-degree assault: 4-12 years in prison, or if committed as a crime of passion, 1-3 years in prison.
- Third-degree assault: 1-1.5 years in prison.
You may also face further enhancements at sentencing if law enforcement can prove that you committed the offense based on bias against the alleged victim’s identity.
In any case, a conviction of assault on the elderly means being left with the life-long consequences of being a convicted felon. A criminal record of violent crime can affect nearly every aspect of your life.
If you find yourself facing charges for assault of an elder, it is imperative to act quickly and decisively to protect your freedom and future.
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.