Like all states, Colorado divides crimes into felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are more serious crimes, punishable by state prison terms of one year or more. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, punishable by county or local jail terms of up to 18 months. (For more information on misdemeanors in Colorado, see Colorado Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.)
Most felonies in Colorado are designated as Class 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. Some felonies in Colorado are unclassified. For unclassified felonies, the sentence is set out in the criminal statute. If no penalty is fixed, then a felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. In addition, Colorado law provides different penalties for drug felonies.
Sentencing laws in Colorado have changed over time, and the punishments set out below apply to felonies committed on or after July 1, 2018. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401, 18-1.3-402, 18-1.3-403 (2019).)
Class 1 felonies are the most serious crimes in Colorado, punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. First degree murder is an example of a class 1 felony. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401 (2019).)
Class 2 felonies in Colorado are punishable by eight to 24 years in prison, a fine of $5,000 to $1,000,000, or both. Human trafficking of a minor is an example of a class 2 felony. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401 (2019).)
A conviction for a class 3 felony can result in a state prison sentence of four to 12 years, a fine of $3,000 to $750,000, or both. For example, first degree assault is typically a class 3 felony. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401 (2019).)
Class 4 felonies are punishable by two to six years’ imprisonment, a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, or both. Theft of property worth between $20,000 and $100,000 is a class 4 felony. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401 (2019).)
Colorado’s laws impose a sentence of one to three years in prison, a fine of $1,000 to $100,000, or both, for a class 5 felony conviction. Forgery, for instance, is a class 5 felony. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401 (2019).)
Class 6 felonies are the least serious felonies in Colorado, punishable by one year to 18 months in prison, a fine of $1,000 to $100,000, or both. For example, impersonating a peace officer is a class 6 felony. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401 (2019).)
Colorado law treats drug felonies differently than other felony offenses, dividing them into levels 1, 2, 3, and 4. Drug felonies committed on or after October 1, 2013 are punishable as follows:
(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401.5 (2019).)
For many crimes, there is a time period, called the statute of limitations, during which the state must begin criminal prosecution or the defendant can have the case dismissed. For many felonies in Colorado, the state has three years from the date the crime is committed to begin criminal prosecution. Very serious felonies, such as murder, kidnapping, treason, and sex offenses against children, have no statutes of limitations and the state can begin criminal prosecution at any time. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 16-5-401 (2019).)
Felony convictions can have life-long consequences. If you are charged with a felony, talk to an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney about your case. An attorney can explain the charges you are facing, the defenses that might apply, and the different options available to you. A good lawyer can help you navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights.