Colorado Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences

A guide to felony sentencing, probation, and parole in Colorado.

Colorado distinguishes felony offenses from misdemeanors based on the seriousness of the offense. A misdemeanor carries a maximum possible sentence of 24 months in a local jail. Any crime that carries the possibility of a year or more and up to life in prison is a felony. Colorado repealed the death penalty in 2020.

Colorado uses two felony sentencing schemes—one for drug offenses and one for all other offenses (referred to as non-drug felonies in this article)—both of which have changed several times over the years.

This article will provide an overview of felony sentencing, probation, and parole laws in Colorado. Specifically, the punishments set out below apply to non-drug felonies committed on or after July 1, 2018, and drug felonies committed on or after October 1, 2013. For information on time limits for filing felony charges, check out Colorado Criminal Statutes of Limitations.

The law divides non-drug felonies into six classes and drug felonies into four levels. For unclassified felonies, the sentence is set out in the criminal statute. If no penalty is fixed, a felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

For all felonies, the law provides a presumptive minimum and maximum sentence of incarceration and a mandatory parole term based on the crime's class or level and severity. When ordering a sentence of imprisonment, judges typically order a fixed term that falls within the presumptive sentence for a particular crime. If aggravating or mitigating circumstances exist, a judge can impose a sentence above or below the presumptive range. But in no case can the court order a sentence that is more than twice the maximum presumptive sentence.

Presumptive Sentences for Non-Drug Felonies in Colorado

Below are the presumptive minimum and maximum sentences and mandatory parole terms by class and severity for non-drug felonies. Crimes of violence and extraordinary risk of harm crimes are listed in statute.

Class 1 Felonies

Class 1 felonies are punishable by life imprisonment. Examples include first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, and treason.

Class 2 Felonies

Class 2 felonies carry the following presumptive prison sentences and mandatory parole terms.

  • Crimes of violence: imprisonment of 16 to 48 years and mandatory parole of five years
  • All other Class 2 felonies: imprisonment of eight to 24 years and mandatory parole of three years

Fines for Class 2 felonies range from $5,000 to $1 million. Examples of Class 2 felonies include certain first-degree assaults and theft of property worth $1 million or more.

Class 3 Felonies

Class 3 felonies carry the following presumptive prison sentences and mandatory parole terms.

  • Crimes of violence: imprisonment of 10 to 32 years and mandatory parole of five years
  • Extraordinary risk of harm crimes: imprisonment of four to 16 years and mandatory parole of five years
  • All other Class 3 felonies: imprisonment of four to 12 years and mandatory parole of three years

Fines for Class 3 felonies range from $3,000 to $750,000. Examples of Class 3 felonies include first-degree arson, first-degree burglary, aggravated robbery, and sex trafficking.

Class 4 Felonies

Class 4 felonies carry the following presumptive prison sentences and mandatory parole terms.

  • Crimes of violence: imprisonment of five to 16 years and mandatory parole of three years
  • Extraordinary risk of harm crimes: imprisonment of two to eight years and mandatory parole of three years
  • All other Class 4 felonies: imprisonment of two to six years and mandatory parole of three years

Fines for Class 4 felonies range from $2,000 to $500,000. Examples of Class 4 felonies include criminal extortion, theft of property worth between $20,000 and $100,000, and stalking in violation of a protection order.

Class 5 Felonies

Class 5 felonies carry the following presumptive prison sentences and mandatory parole terms.

  • Crimes of violence: imprisonment of 30 months to eight years and mandatory parole of three years
  • Extraordinary risk of harm crimes: imprisonment of one to four years and mandatory parole of two years
  • All other Class 5 felonies: imprisonment of one to three years and mandatory parole of two years

Fines for Class 5 felonies range from $1,000 to $100,000. Examples of Class 5 felonies include unlawful electronic sexual communication, stalking, and forgery.

Class 6 Felonies

Class 6 felonies carry the following presumptive prison sentences and one-year mandatory parole terms.

  • Crimes of violence: imprisonment of 18 months to four years
  • Extraordinary risk of harm crimes: imprisonment of one to two years
  • All other Class 6 felonies: imprisonment of 12 to 18 months

Fines for Class 6 felonies range from $1,000 to $100,000. Examples of Class 6 felonies include invasion of privacy for sexual gratification and impersonating a peace officer.

Presumptive Sentences for Felony Drug Offenses

Drug felonies committed on or after October 1, 2013, carry the following presumptive sentences and mandatory parole terms:

  • Level 1 drug felony: Between eight and 32 years in prison, $5,000 and $1,000,000 in fines, or both. Mandatory parole of three years.
  • Level 2 drug felony: Between four and eight years in prison (aggravated range of eight to 14 years), $3,000 and $750,000 in fines, or both. Mandatory parole of two years.
  • Level 3 drug felony: Between two to four years in prison (aggravated range of four to six years), $2,000 and $500,000 in fines, or both. Mandatory parole of one year.
  • Level 4 drug felony: Between six to 12 months in prison (aggravated range of one to two years), $1,000 and $100,000 in fines, or both. Mandatory parole of one year.

Felony Sentencing in Colorado

Not every person convicted of a felony will go to prison. Judges take several factors into consideration when handing down a sentence, such as:

  • the nature and character of the offense
  • the offender's individual characteristics, and
  • an offender's criminal history.

Sentencing Options

The law authorizes several different sentencing options, including:

  • incarceration
  • probation
  • community corrections program
  • home detention program
  • specialized restitution and community service programs
  • restorative justice, and
  • payment of fines, fees, costs, and restitution.

Felony Probation

In some cases, the judge will hand down the prison sentence but hold off on sending the offender to prison. Here, the judge stays (suspends) the prison sentence and places the offender on probation subject to conditions. The prison sentence hangs over the defendant's head as an incentive to comply with probation conditions, which could include serving a short jail sentence, meeting with a probation officer, abstaining from alcohol or drugs, attending counseling, maintaining employment, and remaining law-abiding. A defendant who violates probation could end up with additional probation conditions or be sent to prison.

Prison Sentences and Parole in Colorado

Colorado has a somewhat unique sentencing system. Most states either use what's called a determinate or an indeterminate sentencing structure, but Colorado uses parts of both. Here's a brief overview of how it works.

Fixed Sentence Term

At sentencing, a judge can impose any fixed (determinate) sentence within the limits set by the legislature (see above). This fixed sentence represents the longest an inmate can serve in prison.

Discretionary Parole Release

The law also offers certain offenders the chance to apply for discretionary parole release, which is reviewed and granted by a parole board. (Parole release is generally part of indeterminate sentencing systems.) While not guaranteed, parole offers inmates a way to shave significant time off of their fixed sentence through good behavior in prison.

Parole eligibility. Offenders generally become eligible to apply for parole release once they've served 50 or 75 percent of their fixed sentence, depending on their convicted offense and criminal history. This eligibility date can be extended for misconduct. Some offenders are not eligible for parole by virtue of their offense.

Earned credits. Certain offenders can also accrue earned time credits and apply for parole even earlier than the halfway mark. Inmates earn these credits for progress on goals, such as educational or treatment goals.

Minimums apply. An offender who earns credits can be eligible for parole review as early as after completing 25 percent of their sentence. Inmates whose sentences include a mandatory minimum won't be eligible for release until the minimum sentence is served.

Parole Board Review

The Colorado State Board of Parole reviews parole applications and has the authority to grant, defer, or deny discretionary parole. If parole is denied, an offender must wait another year to apply (three years for certain sex offenders). When the board grants parole, it will set conditions and length of parole, subject to the mandatory parole term identified above. An offender who violates parole must go before the board again to decide if parole will be revoked.

Prison Sentence Example

Say an offender receives a conviction for a Class 2 felony, punishable by eight to 24 years in prison. The judge hands down a fixed prison sentence of 12 years. At the latest, the offender must be released from prison after serving the 12 years but may become eligible for discretionary parole release after serving six years (assuming good behavior). If the offender also accrues earned time credits, the offender could be eligible for parole release in as little as three to four years. The parole board reviews the offender's application for parole. If granted, the offender must serve at least three years on parole (the mandatory term). If the parole board denies release, the prisoner can apply again in a year and every year thereafter.

Find a Lawyer

If you're charged with a felony offense in Colorado, contact a criminal defense attorney right away. A conviction becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you're convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. Even if you don't go to prison, a conviction can hurt you when you are applying for a job, housing, loan, or professional license.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 17-2-201, 17-22.5-403, 18-1.3-21, 19-1.3-401, 18-1.3-401.5, 18-1.3-402, 18-1.3-403 (2021).)

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