The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony
While all types of criminal charges are serious, it’s important to understand the difference between being charged with a misdemeanor versus being charged with a felony in Colorado.
Some crimes do not even meet the test of being a misdemeanor and are considered infractions. An infraction is typically when you are observed doing something illegal, and you are given a ticket and then required to pay a fine. Traffic tickets and some minor drug possessions are examples of infractions.
A misdemeanor is a less serious offense than a felony and upon conviction will result in no more than 18 months of jail time in Colorado, and often times, much less. Sentences are usually served in local jails instead of state prisons. Prosecutors will generally have more leeway in deciding how to charge a person, what kinds of penalties to seek and what kinds of plea bargain terms may be negotiated with misdemeanors.
Felonies are the most serious types of crimes and can result in long prison sentences of at least a year. Convictions can result in punishment of up to life in prison and in a few instances, the death penalty. Many times, these cases arise from violent crime being committed and can result in a long and high- profile trial. In many cases, mandatory sentencing guidelines will apply and can have a lifelong impact on the defendant if convicted. If you are charged with a felony, it is essential that you retain an attorney as soon as possible to begin preparing for a long and involved legal fight ahead.
Types of felony crimes
While some types of crimes that cross state lines are prosecuted under federal laws, the vast majority of crimes are still tried under the jurisdiction of states. In Colorado, there are many types of crimes that can be tried at the state level that are felonies. While there are many others, some of the more common felonies include:
Sentencing guidelines upon a felony conviction in Colorado
Felonies are more serious crimes and upon conviction, a defendant may be punished with a year or more in a state prison. Misdemeanors are less serious in nature and sentences can be served in county or local jails with terms up to 18 months.
Sentencing is determined in part by the class of the felony with which a person has been charged and convicted. Felonies may be designated as Class 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or as unclassified.
Class 1 Felony – These are the most serious of all crimes and can be punished by up to life in prison or the death penalty. Examples of class 1 felonies include murder and kidnapping.
Class 2 Felony – Conviction of these classes of crimes are punishable by 8 to 24 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Some drug crimes are considered class 2 felonies.
Class 3 Felony – Conviction of a class 3 felony can result in a prison sentence of 4 to 12 years and a fine of up to $750,000. An example of a class 3 felony is aggravated robbery.
Class 4 Felony – Conviction of this class of crime can be punished with 2 to 6 years in state prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Sexual assault is an example of a class 4 felony.
Class 5 Felony –A conviction of a class 5 felony will result in a punishment of 1 to 3 years in prison and fine of up to $100,000. Examples of a class 5 felony include some kinds of burglary and theft of property
up to $20,000 in value.
Class 6 Felony – Although the least serious of all felonies in Colorado, a conviction still carries a penalty of 1 year to 18 months in prison. Possession of certain drugs is an example of a class 6 felony.
Unclassified Felonies – Some crimes are not designated by class, but are individually set out in the criminal statute pertaining to that crime. If a penalty has not been fixed, then an unclassified felony can be punished by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
For each of these classes of felonies, penalties may be increased if it is determined that there are aggravating factors as part of the crime.
Does Colorado have a death penalty?
While it rarely ever happens, Colorado does have a death penalty in place which can be imposed by jurors in class 1 felony cases involving some types of murder, kidnapping or treason. Aggravating factors must be established and can include the death of a child or of a peace officer, firefighter, judge or elected official; the use of explosive devices; or conduct that is considered especially heinous, cruel, depraved or demonstrates extreme indifference to human life.
What about statutes of limitations?
A statute of limitations is a time period in which the state must begin prosecuting a person charged with a crime, or those charges can be dismissed. For some felonies in Colorado, there is a statute of limitations of 3 to 5 years from the date the crime is committed to begin prosecution. However, many serious felonies such as murder, kidnapping or certain sex crimes have no statute of limitations and can be prosecuted at any point.
Contact Decker & Jones if you have been charged with a felony crime
Being charged with a felony crime is a serious matter, no matter what the charge. Your basic freedoms could be in serious jeopardy, and so it is essential that you begin mounting a legal defense as soon as possible. You must retain an attorney who is experienced in defending felony charges or run the risk of being convicted and being imprisoned for many years to come.
Creating a solid criminal defense against a felony charge takes time and because some legal strategies are time sensitive, you must act quickly to give yourself the best possible chances of winning your case.
At Decker & Jones, we have nearly 30 years of combined experience and have successfully defended numerous people who have been charged with a felony crime.
Contact us today at our Golden or Denver offices at 303.279.1586 or by filling out our online contact form for a free consultation to see how we can put our skills and experience to work for you.