Violent Crimes Have Decreased in Colorado since Legalization

As one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the country has been looking to Colorado to see what effect legalization would have on our crime rates, incarceration rates, and overall functioning as a state. Among the many studies and reports taken in the few short years since the legalization of marijuana, one in particular looks at the rate of violent crimes in Denver.

According to, Denver saw a 2.2% decrease in all violent crimes in the first 11 months of 2014. Burglaries decreased by 9.5%, and other property crimes decreased by 8.9%.

Depending on the situation surrounding a burglary, a burglary charge could either be considered a non-violent offense or a violent offense under Colorado law. Some property crimes, like burglary, are considered violent crimes, but most are considered non-violent crimes and are therefore listed separately in the report’s statistics.

Violent crimes are a specific set of offenses, often with different sentencing and penalties. But what makes a crime a “violent” crime in our state?

How Does Colorado Define Violent Crimes?

How Does Colorado Define Violent CrimesWhile non-violent crimes are typically offenses that cause harm to someone’s property or the sale of illegal items, violent crimes are offenses that cause or threaten bodily harm to a person.

Offenses that are typically classified as “non-violent” include:

Some violent crimes include:

  • Assault and battery
  • Murder
  • False imprisonment or kidnapping
  • Sexual abuse or assault
  • First degree burglary
  • First degree arson
  • Crimes committed against an at-risk adult or at-risk juvenile

Assault and battery are the most common forms of violent crimes in Colorado. Let’s briefly review their definitions, as they are important to keep in mind when considering any offense that could be considered a crime of violence:

Battery (also known as “menacing”) – threatening the use of or invoking the imminent fear of committing serious bodily harm to another person

Assault – knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm to another person

Sentencing for Violent Crimes

Sentencing for Violent Crimes in DenverSince non-violent crimes typically involve damage to property, penalties typically include a higher fine and less time in jail. For violent crimes, penalties are the opposite.

According to Colorado Law 18-1.3-406, “Any person convicted of a crime of violence shall be sentenced pursuant to the provisions of section 18-1.3-401 (8) to the department of corrections for a term of incarceration of at least the midpoint in, but not more than twice the maximum of, the presumptive range provided for such offense.”

Basically, this law means that when you are convicted of an offense that is considered a violent crime, you will go to jail.

When a Non-Violent Crime Becomes a Violent Crime

Threats of violence or recklessly causing harm can turn a non-violent crime into a violent crime within seconds, which will drastically effect sentencing and penalties for the offenses committed.

You might have noticed that burglary shows up on both lists. The difference between first and second degree burglary is serious, especially when you consider the laws concerning incarceration for violent crimes. Even if you commit a crime that is typically non-violent, additional actions or threats can put you at risk for being charged with violent offenses and being subject to the incarceration laws reserved for violent crimes.

Let’s look at one example regarding burglary. Second degree burglary is committed when someone enters a building with the intent to commit a crime. First degree burglary is committed when someone enters a building with the intent to commit a crime and: 

  • Commits assault
  • Uses threats of violence or the use of a weapon
  • Is armed with a weapon or explosive, or
  • Uses a weapon

If someone engages in burglary and threatens to use a firearm (whether they are actually armed or not), they have committed a crime of violence. If, however, the offender keeps his or her mouth shut through the burglary, then the crime remains non-violent.

Defenses against a Violent Crime Charge

Since there are certain exceptions and rules regarding when a non-violent crime is considered a violent offense, one defense strategy you can use with your attorney is arguing that the offense did not involve any threats of or bodily harm to the victims involved.

Using this defense may convince a judge to drop certain counts and drastically decrease your sentence. You may even avoid jail time.

If you have been charged with a violent crime, you face harsh penalties and lifelong consequences. Contact a Colorado criminal defense lawyer today to get started on crafting a strong, serious defense strategy.

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.