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Colorado Assault in the Second Degree, What Are Your Defenses?

Written By: Thomas Weber

Assault is a crime, and can occur before you even understand that it’s happened. Since assault is considered a serious crime in Colorado, a hasty decision could end up leaving you with an assault in the second-degree charge. 

Colorado criminal defense law professionals know which types of actions can result in a charge of criminal assault, also known as assault in the second degree, and can help you establish your defenses. Here’s what you need to know about an assault in the second degree and the possible defenses an experienced criminal defense attorney can use to help protect you. 

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Second-Degree Assault

According to statute CRS 18-3-203, you commit assault in the second degree if you intentionally or recklessly cause injury to another person with a deadly weapon. A conviction of this Colorado crime is considered a class 4 felony punishable by a prison sentence of up to 16 years.

Although assault in the second degree is considered less serious than first-degree assault (CRS 18-3-202), it still carries severe penalties. Third-degree assault (CRS 18-3-204) typically involves negligent accidents and is considered less serious than assault in the second degree. 

Assault, in general, occurs when an individual violently applies physical force to another. Let’s explore how first or second-degree assault charges can change your life and whether the person committing these acts have defenses available to avoid such offenses. Colorado criminal defense lawyers may be able to have your charges reduced when you’ve been accused of assault. 

What Is Second-Degree Assault in Colorado under CRS 18-3-203?

Second-degree assault occurs when the following eight behaviors are present: 

  • Intentionally causing an injury with a deadly weapon
  • Recklessly causing a serious injury with a deadly weapon
  • Intentionally hurting someone to prevent a police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical professional from engaging in his or her duties
  • Intentionally causing someone else to suffer a physical or mental impairment, including making them unconscious or drugging them without their consent
  • Knowingly using physical force against an emergency medical service provider, prison worker, peace officer, firefighter, or court worker engaged in his or her duties
  • Trying to infect an emergency responder or prison worker by using bodily fluids like blood, seminal fluid, urine, and more
  • When someone causes serious bodily injury while trying to cause a less serious injury
  • Intentionally hurting someone by suffocating or strangling them 

A few examples of second-degree assault in Colorado could include:

  • Harming law enforcement personnel engaged in the performance of their duty
  • Striking with the intent to cause bodily harm to an emergency medical care provider or person engaged in performing a lawful duty
  • Using feces, saliva, mucus, vomit, and other body liquid to attack a youth services counselor
  • Assaulting someone employed by the division in the Department of Human Services responsible for youth services
  • Causing bodily injury to another person and causing such injury to any person utilizing a deadly weapon

Read on for more information about second-degree assault and how a Denver criminal defense attorney can help you to build the proper defense against such charges.

What is the Difference Between 1st and 2nd Degree Assault in Colorado?

In Colorado, assault is charged in three different degrees based on their severity:

The main difference between the first and second degrees is the severity of injuries to the other party. Second-degree assault occurs if someone intentionally causes non-serious injuries to another person. First-degree assault applies if you intentionally cause severe injuries to another person. Third-degree assault happens if you cause injuries by accident. 

What Is the Difference Between a Bodily Injury and a Serious Bodily Injury?

A bodily injury is generally seen as  “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical or mental condition.” However, serious bodily injury involves injuries that put an intended victim at risk of death. These injuries can cause serious and permanent disfigurement and involve the impairment of a body part or an internal organ. Some serious bodily injuries include broken or fractured bones and second or third-degree burns 

Non-serious injuries typically get charged as second-degree assault under Colorado Statute CRS 18-3-203. Serious bodily injuries tend to lead to first-degree assault charges, which may carry twice the prison time as second-degree assault.

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Colorado Deadly Weapon Law

Generally, the use of a deadly weapon will earn a second-degree assault charge. A deadly weapon could be a:

  • Firearm, even if it is not loaded
  • Knife or another blade
  • Bludgeon or club, including a baseball bat
  • Anything that can be used to cause death or serious bodily injury

Legal Defenses to Second-Degree Assault

There are numerous legal defenses against second-degree assault. Some of the most common defenses used by Colorado criminal defense lawyers include:

According to the law, it may be justifiable to hurt someone to defend yourself or someone else intentionally. However, to prove this your legal defense must demonstrate that you:

  • Believed someone else was about to use unlawful force against you or another person
  • Used as much force as necessary to solely protect yourself or that other person
  • Had beliefs that are deemed reasonable and not excessive according to Colorado law

You can defend yourself against a second-degree assault charge by showing the injury was a negligent accident or mistake. Since Colorado’s second-degree assault statutes allow for the heat of passion defense, this could lead to a reduction of your charges from a class 4 felony to a class 6 felony. 

If you’re looking to prove a heat of passion, your criminal defense has to demonstrate that:

  • The victim provoked you
  • This provocation created an irresistible passion to act
  • There was not enough time for you to calm down before you caused the injury

Colorado Second-Degree Assault Penalties

Second-degree felony assault is considered a class 4 felony and a crime of violence (COV) according to Colorado law. Since it’s a COV, second-degree assault carries mandatory sentencing of five to 16 years in prison. Judges may also impose a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.

If you and your Colorado legal defense team can prove that you were in the heat of passion during the assault, the case becomes a class 6 felony. The penalties for a class 6 felony are between 12 and 18 months in prison and/or $1,000 to $100,000 in fines.

CO Criminal Defense Lawyers and Second-Degree Assault

If assault in the second degree is being charged, it is important to contact a seasoned Colorado defense attorney immediately. When a person commits second-degree assault, this crime is subject to mandatory sentencing. The early involvement of skilled defense lawyers will help preserve key evidence in your case. 

Your criminal defense attorney can shield you from intended harm charges. A defendant convicted of assault in the second degree could lose some of their rights and have trouble finding employment. Colorado criminal defense law firms can: 

  • Interview key witnesses
  • Visit the crime scene and gathering evidence
  • Conduct a detailed investigation on your behalf
  • Try your case in court
  • Negotiate plea bargain arrangements

Second Degree Assault charges are fairly common, especially after a brawl. If this is the case in your arrest, it is important to remain silent and avoid incriminating yourself by saying something you may regret. This means don’t give them your statement about the events of the night. Instead of talking to law enforcement, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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Second Degree Assault FAQ

If you’re accused of causing injury to any person, this can have harmful effects on your life. If assault in the second degree is committed under circumstances where the act causing the injury is performed upon a sudden heat of passion, caused by a serious and highly provoking act of the intended victim, affecting the person causing the injury sufficiently to excite an irresistible passion in a reasonable person, and without an interval between the provocation and the injury sufficient for the voice of reason and humanity to be heard, then you may be able to have your charges reduced.

Read on for the most frequently asked questions our attorneys are asked and what defenses you have available to you after a second-degree assault charge. 

How Serious Is Second Degree Assault Colorado?

A second degree assault conviction is a class 4 felony punishable by a prison sentence of 5 to 16 years and fines of up to $500,000.

What Is Second Degree Assault Bodily Injury Colorado?

According to C.R.S. 18-3-203, you commit second-degree assault when you knowingly or recklessly cause bodily injury to another person by using a deadly weapon. It also includes intentionally causing bodily injury to someone while acting with extreme indifference to the value of human life without the use of a deadly weapon.

What Is the Difference Between Second Degree and Third Degree Assault in Colorado?

Second degree assault is intentionally causing serious injury to another without the use of a deadly weapon. The difference with a third degree felony is the degree of harm or injury caused, threatened, and intended to the alleged victim.

What Are the Degrees of Assault in Colorado?

Assault may be charged as first degree assault, second degree assault, or third degree assault. 

Third Degree Assault

Colorado defines third degree assault as “knowingly,” or “recklessly,” causing bodily injury to another person. Pain alone can meet the requirements, even when no real injury occurs. Third degree assault can also be defined as negligently, or accidentally, causing actual injury to someone with a deadly weapon.

Although third degree assault is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, since it is an “extraordinary risk crime,” the normal penalty for a Class 1 Misdemeanor is increased by six months. This means the possible sentence of two years in a Colorado county jail

Several factors determine what sentence you receive including whether:

  • It is a first offense generally 
  • It is a first offense of a similar nature
  • How aggravated the act was
  • The surrounding circumstances that mitigate your actions 

When an assault is categorized as a domestic violence offense, then mandatory domestic violence classes can be ordered by the court as a condition of your probation. Your CO defense attorney can evaluate your charges to determine if they have any merit. 

Second Degree Assault

In Colorado, you can be charged with second degree assault when you:

  • Intentionally cause bodily injury to another by employing a deadly weapon
  • Recklessly cause serious bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
  • Cause serious bodily injury to other
  • Cause bodily injury to anyone while intentionally trying to prevent a police officer or firefighter from performing their duties
  • Knowingly apply “physical, violent force” to a police officer, firefighter, prison guard, or judge while they are in the performance of their duties
  • Intentionally drug someone without their consent

Any of the above Crimes of Violence involve a mandatory sentence to prison if convicted. The  Colorado judge in your case will have no choice but to sentence you to at least the midpoint of the presumptive sentence range. For second degree assault, this could be a minimum sentence of five years and up to 16 years. 

It’s imperative to note the difference between bodily injury, and “serious” bodily injury because it becomes imperative when determining whether the facts of your case justify a criminal charge for a second degree assault charge. 

“Bodily injury” means any pain, or physical or mental impairment, even if temporary. “Serious bodily injury” according to CO law CRS 18-1-9001 is “bodily injury which, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.”

When there is “Heat of Passion,” or you were provoked by someone into committing assault, then the Colorado District Attorney can be convinced to file a second degree assault as a Class 6 Felony, thereby reducing your possible penalties. 

The heat of Passion “mitigates” your actions, and makes them seem less severe, whereas self defense is used as a complete defense by your legal team. 

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First Degree Assault

You can be charged with first degree assault in the state of Colorado when you:

  • Intend to cause serious bodily injury to another person, and cause serious bodily injury to anyone even if not the person intended
  • Intentionally seriously disfigure or disable someone else
  • Show “extreme indifference to the value of human life,” by knowingly doing something which creates a grave risk of death, and causes serious bodily injury to another
  • Act with the intent to cause serious bodily injury to police, a firefighter, a judge, or a prison worker and you threaten them with a deadly weapon.

When “Heat of Passion,” is present and you were provoked by the other person, then the Colorado District Attorney may file the charge as a Class 5 Felony, which is a reduction from the normal Class 3 Felony designation and could drastically reduce your possible sentence.

First degree assault is always considered a “Crime of Violence,” and will result in a mandatory prison sentence of at least ten years if convicted. Since any crime of violence is a felony it has as one of its essential elements the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or an offense that by its very nature involves a substantial risk that such physical force may be used in the course of committing the offense.

Bodily injury can be defined as a cut, abrasion, bruise, burn, disfigurement, physical pain, illness, as well as impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty. It can also include any other injury to the body, no matter how temporary.

Extraordinary Risk Crimes are a harm enhancement and increase the maximum sentence the judge may give you. Extraordinary Risk Crimes include, but are not limited to, child abuse, third degree assault, unlawful sexual contact, and violation of a restraining order (only for second or subsequent offenses).

Colorado Degrees of Assault

First degree assault is the most serious form of assault. It can be committed by a physical assault on another individual. Particularly when the defendant caused or intended to cause serious bodily injury, or used a lethal weapon.

Second degree assault is an attack that generally causes or intends to cause bodily injury to a person. It is a less serious offense if it is perpetrated upon a sudden heat of passion, and a more grave offense if it is committed during the undertaking of or certain serious felony offenses.

Third degree assault is a class 1 misdemeanor and is committed when a person either knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another or negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon.

If you’ve been charged with assault, contact an adept Colorado criminal defense attorney right away. 

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