Colorado, like all states, divides crimes into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are punishable by 364 days or less in a county or local jail. Felonies are more serious crimes, punishable by state prison terms of one year or more.
Colorado divides misdemeanors into three general categories: misdemeanors, drug misdemeanors, and traffic misdemeanors. Within each category, the law designates a class 1 or 2 or level 1 or 2. (For general misdemeanors committed before March 1, 2022, the law provided three classes.)
Below are the penalties and classifications for all types of misdemeanors.
A class 1 misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor in Colorado. Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Examples of class 1 misdemeanors include repeat violations of a protection order, unlawful sexual contact, and criminal mischief and theft of property (damage or value of $1,000 to $2,000).
A class 2 misdemeanor carries a possible 120-day jail term, a fine of up to $750, or both. Theft of property worth at least $300 but less than $1,000, criminal trespass, and invasion of privacy are class 2 misdemeanors.
Level 1 drug misdemeanors carry a sentence of 6 to 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both. For certain possession offenses, the law provides alternative sentencing options involving probation but shorter jail times.
A level 2 drug misdemeanor conviction can result in up to 364 days in jail, $50 to $750 in fines, or both. For certain possession offenses, the law provides alternative sentencing options involving probation but shorter jail times.
Traffic misdemeanors are divided into classes 1 and 2. A class 1 traffic misdemeanor carries 10 to 364 days in jail, $300 to $1,000 in fines, or both. Class 2 traffic misdemeanors carry 10 to 90 days in jail, $150 to $300 in fines, or both. Driving while texting (resulting in bodily injury) is a class 1 traffic misdemeanor. An example of a class 2 traffic misdemeanor is reckless driving.
While jail time is an option for misdemeanor convictions, judges often reserve jail time for repeat offenders or offenses involving violence or risk of harm. A judge may impose any of the following sentencing alternatives in lieu of jail or as a condition of avoiding jail: probation, deferred sentencing, home detention, and special restitution and community service programs. In some cases, the prosecutor's office may offer pretrial diversion, which allows an offender to avoid criminal court completely.
For offenders with substance abuse or behavioral health issues, the defendant might be eligible to participate in a problem-solving court, such as drug court, DUI court, mental health court, or veteran's treatment court.
In Colorado, a defendant can file a motion to seal a class 2 or 3 misdemeanor or any drug misdemeanor two years after the completion of the case or sentence. The wait period increases to three years for a class 1 misdemeanor.
Certain misdemeanors are not eligible for sealing, including traffic misdemeanors, domestic violence crimes, and crimes of violence. More information can be found on the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
A statute of limitations is a time period during which the state must begin criminal prosecution. Charging a case after the statute has "run" enables the defendant to move to have the case dismissed. In Colorado, the district attorney typically must begin prosecution of misdemeanors within 18 months of committing the crime. Traffic misdemeanors, however, have a one-year statute of limitations.
All criminal convictions, even misdemeanor convictions for seemingly trivial crimes, have serious consequences. If you are charged with any crime, talk to an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney about your case. An attorney can explain the charges you are facing, how the assigned judge and prosecutor are likely to handle your case, and what to expect in court. An attorney can also determine what defenses apply in your case and how to present the strongest arguments to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome.
(Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 16-5-401, 18-1.3-101 to -106, 18-1.3-201 et seq., 18-1.3-501 to -509, 24-72-706, 42-4-1701 (2022).)