Every case is different. The results below came from hard work and skill applied to situations with feasible legal or factual defenses. They are not intended to suggest what result you will obtain in your case.
Denver Assault Lawyer
Defense of assault charges
In Colorado, if you’ve been charged with assault, you need a skilled criminal defense lawyer. There is a big difference between first, second, and third degree assaults, but even third degree assault is a serious charge, punishable by up to 2 years in jail. Moreover, an assault charge can be difficult for the DA to prove when you are defended well. A good criminal defense lawyer will often be able to show, for example, that you acted in self-defense, that you did not cause the alleged injury, that the witnesses could not have seen what they thought they saw, or that the victim had a motive to lie about what happened. Further, each degree of assault requires proof of a specific mental state, and a good defense lawyer can make it very difficult for the DA to prove you had the guilty mental state required by law.
Of course, every case is different, but you get the best results when you hire a skilled trial lawyer, not someone who just dabbles in criminal defense. Matthew Hand has extensive trial experience in cases involving violent crime, and can defend you from any assault charges, in any court in Colorado.
Third Degree Assault | 18-3-204
Third degree assault is the least serious of the assault charges, but it is the most commonly charged. It is a common charge in domestic violence cases and minor or moderate fights. It is a class 1 misdemeanor, but because it is deemed an extraordinary risk crime, it is punishable by up to 2 years in jail. There is no mandatory minimum sentence unless certain aggravating factors exist, such as a pregnant victim.
According to Colorado law, a person commits third degree assault if the person knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person.
You can see that third degree assault does not require a specific intent to harm somebody– it can be as little as reckless behavior that results in an injury to another. And it is important to note that “bodily injury” is defined to include as little as “pain”, which is a very low threshold for the district attorney to prove. Therefore, when you’re charged with third degree assault, your defense is usually one of the following: 1) that you never even touched the alleged victim, 2) that the bodily injury was caused negligently (not recklessly or knowingly), or 3) that you were justified in using force (self defense or defense of others, usually). There are other less common defenses that your lawyer can talk to you about.
A Denver criminal defense lawyer with trial experience gives you the best chance of dismissal, acquittal at trial, or a favorable plea bargain. The reality is that even if you want to take a plea bargain, an experienced trial lawyer will be able to drive a harder bargain with the DA, because the DA knows that there is a greater chance there would be an acquittal if he didn’t make a fair plea offer. Read more about why people choose Denver lawyer Matthew Hand, or call the Law Office of Matthew Hand for a free consultation at (303) 900-8480.
Second Degree Assault | 18-3-203
Second degree assault is a felony and a so-called crime of violence, which increases the penalties. As commonly charged, it is a class 4 felony punishable by 5 to 16 years in prison. There a variety of ways to commit a second degree assault, but the most common is when a person intends to cause bodily injury, and in fact causes serious bodily injury to another person. Unlike third degree assault, the DA must prove an intent to cause bodily injury, and the injury must be serious—the law defines “serious bodily injury” to include things such as a substantial risk of death, a broken bone, any disfigurement, or any lasting impairment to a body function.
Here are all the ways a person commits second degree assault:
- With intent to cause bodily injury to another person, he causes serious bodily injury
- With intent to cause bodily injury to another person, he causes such injury by means of a deadly weapon
- With intent to prevent a peace officer or firefighter from performing a lawful duty, he or she intentionally causes bodily injury to any person
- He recklessly causes serious bodily injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon
- He drugs another without that person’s consent (note, this is not considered crime of violence, and so there is not a mandatory minimum of 5 years).
- He uses force on a judge, or force or body fluids on certain employees of detention facilities.
See Colorado Revised Statutes 18-3-203 for exact language. Note that the statute provides that a second degree assault while committing (or fleeing after the commission of) certain other serious crimes turns the assault into a class 3 felony, instead of class 4.
Self-defense, defense of others, and other common defenses are available for second degree assault. A unique opportunity for mitigation is available in second degree assault cases: the crime is only a class 6 felony if it was committed in the “heat of passion.” Heat of passion may exist, for example, if you walked in on your spouse in bed with another, and acted before you had a chance to calm down. If you’ve been charged with any felony, you need a defense lawyer with trial experience. But second degree assault cases, which frequently turn on these contested issues of self defense and heat of passion, uniquely call for a good trial lawyer—someone who attacks the government’s evidence and persuasively tells your story.
First degree assault | 18-3-202
First degree assault is a serious felony and usually a so-called crime of violence, which provides for enhanced prison sentences upon conviction. It is a class 3 felony with a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and up to 32 years. It is only a class 5 felony if committed in the heat of passion, much like second degree assault.
Here are the ways that a person commits the crime of first degree assault:
- With intent to cause serious bodily injury, he causes such injury using a deadly weapon
- With intent to permanently disfigure or amputate a person, he does so
- While showing extreme indifference to human life, he knowingly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death to another and in the process causes serious bodily injury to that person
- With intent to cause serious bodily injury, he uses a deadly weapon to threaten a police officer, fire fighter, judge, or prison worker
See Colorado Revised Statutes 18-3-202 for exact language.
As with second degree assault, claims of self-defense are often central to your defense. At trial, a good criminal defense lawyer will also be able to call into question whether you had the guilty mental state required by law– that is, what was your intent in the incident? Of course, on the right facts, numerous other possible defenses can come up, such as alibi, mistaken identity, defense of others, duress, and more. Contact a Denver criminal defense lawyer today.