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Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies in Colorado
The various crimes and offenses in the state of Colorado can be classified in three major categories based on their gravity: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are petty offenses, misdemeanors are more severe, while felonies are the most severe crimes in the state. According to the state’s legislature, Colorado crimes are tried on the basis of these categories.
What is a Felony in Colorado?
Felonies in Colorado are the most grievous crime with the most severe punishments compared to misdemeanors and infractions. The Colorado criminal code defines felonies as crimes that are punishable by at least one year imprisonment and a maximum of life sentence. Punishment may also include fines, probation, mandatory counseling, or other sanctions provided at the court’s discretion (CO. Rev. Stat. § 18–1.3–401)..
Colorado courts determine the sentence of felony crimes based on the nature of the crime and the provision of the state’s code. Other factors that may affect the severity of the penalties include:
- Age: The age of individuals who commit felonies may influence the penalties given for certain crimes. For instance juveniles may serve milder sentences compared to the sentences given to adult offenders. In addition, the age of victims or persons involved in a crime may also influence the level of severity of crimes as seen in kidnapping, rape, and certain DUI cases.
- Consequences of the crime: Consequences of crimes may be moral, social, financial, and physical or health related damages. As a general rule, the greater the implications or consequences of a felony, the more severe the penalties may be.
- Mental health: The psychology of individuals who violate crimes is taken into account during court hearings and may be critical to determining the culpability of offenders. It can also serve as a strong extenuating factor which may lead to less severe punishments depending on the illness. For instance, offenders who have been proven to have committed a crime while being mentally ill may be sent to a state mental facility instead of being incarcerated.
- Prior criminal history: Prior convictions have been known to affect the severity of penalties. Repeated or habitual offenders are more liable to have higher jail terms and repeated offenses may lead to the crime being categorized in a more severe class of felonies. Conversely, first time felony offenses may lead to a more merciful sentence like reduced fines and jail terms.
- Other mitigating or aggravating circumstances: These are different circumstances surrounding a crime which may reduce or increase charges respectively. Examples include factors like provocation, premeditation, acts done in self defense, etcetera.
Note: Conviction of felony may result in loss of rights and other societal problems for the convicted individual as removing records may be difficult or impossible.
Classification of Felonies in Colorado
Classification of felonies in Colorado is somewhat complex. First there are three major types of felonies: Felonies, drug felonies, and unclassified felonies. Then felonies are subcategorized into 6 classes and drug felonies are subdivided into 4 levels.
It should be noted that in Colorado, classification of crimes and sentences may change based on aggravating factors, extraordinary risk, degree of the crime, or prior convictions. Charges of criminal attempts or conspiracy to commit a particular class or level of felony are often categories one class or level lower than the actual felony.
Regular or non-drug related felonies (committed on or after July 1, 2018) in Colorado are divided into Class 1 to Class 6 with Class one having the most severe punishment and Class 6 having the least punishment. Punishment may also include fines, probation, and parole. The six classes of felonies with their ranges of penalties are:
- Class 1 felony: From life imprisonment to death, no fines.
- Class 2 felony: Fines from $5,000 to $1,000,000; imprisonment from 8 to 24 years.
- Class 3 felony: Fines from $3,000 to $750,000; imprisonment from 4 to 12 years.
- Class 4 felony: Fines from $2,000 to $500,000; imprisonment from 2 to 6 years.
- Class 5 felony: Fines from $1,000 to $100,000; imprisonment from 1 year to 3 years.
- Class 6 felony: Fines from $1,000 to $100,000; imprisonment from 1 year to 18 months.
Note: Colorado stopped being a death penalty state after bill SB20–100 which repealed the state’s death penalty laws was passed On February 26, 2020. This bill applied to felonies charged on or after July 1, 2020.
These have to do with crimes relating to the possession, sales, or administration of drugs in Colorado. Apart from imprisonment, penalties may include fines, probation, and voluntary attendance to certain programs. The four levels of drug felonies (committed on or after October 1, 2013) with their ranges of penalties are:
- Level 1 drug felonies: Fines from $5,000 to $1,000,000; imprisonment from 8 to 32 years. Mandatory parole period of 3 years and aggravated range from 12 to 32 years.
- Level 2 drug felonies: Fines from $3,000 to $750,000; imprisonment from 4 to 8 years. Mandatory parole period of 2 years and aggravated range from 8 to 16 years.
- Level 3 drug felonies: Fines from $2,000 to $500,000; imprisonment from 2 to 4 years. Mandatory parole period of 1 year and aggravated range from 4 to 6 years.
- Level 4 drug felonies: Fines from $1,000 to $100,000; imprisonment from 6 months to 1 year. Mandatory parole period of 1 year and aggravated range from 1 year to 2 years.
Unclassified felonies are crimes that do not fall between levels 1 to 4. Severity and penalties of unclassified felonies may vary and some crimes in this category have sentences provided in the criminal code. If no penalty is stated, the maximum fine is $100,000 and maximum jail term is 5 years.
What are some examples of felonies in Colorado?
Examples of felonies according to type, class, or levels are:
- Class 1 felony: First degree murder, treason, first degree kidnapping (with harm inflicted on victim), etc.
- Class 2 felony: Second degree murder (not committed in the heat of passion), human trafficking (of minors or illegal aliens), racketeering or theft (worth at least $1 million), etc.
- Class 3 felony: First degree burglary, first degree assault, first degree arson, aggravated robbery, etc.
- Class 4 felony: Manslaughter, vehicular homicide, second degree assault, property theft (between $20,000 and $100,000), etc.
- Class 5 felony: First degree criminal trespass, embezzlement of public property, third degree burglary, negligent homicide, etc.
- Class 6 felony: Impersonating a peace officer, animal cruelty, practicing a profession without proper license, property theft (between $2,000 and $5,000), etc.
- Level 1 Drug Felonies: Selling marijuana to a minor (above 2 and one-half pounds), selling controlled substances (with weight and concentration listed in schedule I or II of Part 2 of Article 18 of Title 18).
- Level 2 Drug Felonies: Sale and distribution of materials to manufacture controlled substances, possession of materials to make methamphetamine and amphetamine, etc.
- Level 3 Drug Felonies: Distributing an imitation controlled substance to a minor, selling controlled substances (not exceeding 14 grams), etc.
- Level 4 Drug Felonies: Possessing a controlled substance (that contains any quantity of ketamine or flunitrazepam), selling of controlled substances (not exceeding 4 grams), etc.
- Unclassified Felonies: Riots in detention facilities, hazardous waste, making profit on public money, etc.
Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Colorado?
Yes, it is possible to remove records of certain felony offenses from Colorado courts records. Arrest records of cases that were dismissed, acquitted, not charged (run-out statute of limitation), or charged due to mistaken are eligible for immediate record sealing or expungement (CO. Rev. Stat. § 24–72–702)..
Records of cases with statute of limitations that have not run but are no longer being investigated are also eligible for removal. However, expunging or sealing records of convicted cases in Colorado depends on certain factors provided in the state laws CO. Rev. Stat. § 24–72–703 and 705. Conditions include:
- It is possible to expunge non-violent juvenile or underage records.
- Requesters of juvenile records expungement must not have committed subsequent or prior crimes or have a pending charge.
- Crimes that fall under the Class 1 to Class 3 category and certain non-violent and non-sex related crimes are not eligible for expungement or record seal.
- Records of crimes that fall under level 1 drug felonies and certain DUIs are also not qualified for expungement or sealing of records.
- Records of crimes committed while being a victim of sex trafficking.
- All terms of the penalties like jail time, probation, paroles or fines must have been satisfied.
Note: Juvenile offenses means crimes committed before the age of 18 and underage offenses means crimes committed under 21 years.
Record Expungement or Sealing Process:
Removing a court record of felonies depend on the type of felonies but may involve:
- Getting a copy of the criminal record from law enforcement agencies, CBI, or county court
- Collecting and filling information on appropriate petitions or forms.
- Filing the petition through the required channel
- Paying fees
- Court reviews petition and may hold hearing
- Court communicates the decision and if it is an approval order, the person sends copies to all agencies that have copies of criminal records.
Note: Expungement or sealing of records for eligible individuals is possible but not guaranteed; it is often at the discretion of the judge. In addition, requests for hearing can be done by victims or district attorneys to block an individual’s petition for sealing records.
Is Expungement the same as Sealing Court Records in Colorado?
No, in Colorado, sealing records and expungement means different things and both processes differ in various ways. Expungement in Colorado only applies to destroying or wiping out data concerning juvenile records on certain crimes. However, record sealing applied to removing adult conviction records from public view i.e. the record still exists and can be accessed by certain authorities.
The similarity between the two is that they do not show up in criminal record checks done by private individuals or employers. In addition, those who had their records expunged or sealed do not have to admit to having been convicted of crimes but there may be little exemptions to this in the case of sealed records.
How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Colorado?
Criminal records of felony arrests or convictions in Colorado may stay on an individual’s records forever as there are no provisions for the automatic sealing or expungement of records (CO. Rev. Stat. § 24–72).. Interested and eligible persons must file petitions for sealing or expungement, satisfy all conditions, and get approval or court order from the court before the record can be moved.
Before some eligible persons can apply for expungement of records, there may be required to wait for some time. Some waiting periods for certain felonies are:
- Class 3 to 6 felonies: 3 to 5 years after final disposition
- Level 3 and 4 drug felonies: 3 years after final disposition
- Juvenile records: 5 years after final disposition
- Other eligible felonies: 5 years after final disposition (depending on the type of felony)
What is a Misdemeanor in Colorado?
Misdemeanors in Colorado are less severe crimes that are compared to felonies but more serious than infractions. Misdemeanors are punishable by imprisonment and may include fines, probation, paroles, mandatory counseling, and other sanctions as described by state laws (CO. Rev. Stat. § 18–1.3–501)..
Factors that may influence sentencing include prior criminal records, age of offender and/or victim, financial costs of damages, weight of substances, and other aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
Classes of Misdemeanors in Colorado
Classification of misdemeanors in Colorado is fairly layered. First, there are three major types of misdemeanors: misdemeanors (regular), drug misdemeanors, and traffic misdemeanors. Furthermore, each major category has subdivisions into classes or levels. Misdemeanors (regular) have three classes along with unclassified misdemeanors; drug misdemeanors have two levels, while traffic misdemeanors have two classes with unclassified traffic misdemeanors.
The classification and sentencing of certain crimes in Colorado may change due to prior records, extraordinary risk, aggravating factors, or degree of the crime. The classes of misdemeanors in Colorado with their penalties are:
- Class 1 Misdemeanor: Fines from $500 to $5,000; imprisonment from 6 to 18 months, or both. Extraordinary risk has imprisonment from 6 to 24 months.
- Class 2 Misdemeanor: Fines from $250 to $1,000; imprisonment from 3 to 12 months, or both.
- Class 3 Misdemeanor: Fines from $50 to $750; maximum imprisonment of 6 months, or both.
- Unclassified Misdemeanor: Specified in statute. If unspecified, maximum fine is $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 1 year.
Drug Misdemeanors (DM)
- DM Level 1: Fines from $500 to $5,000; imprisonment from 6 to 18 months, or both.
- DM Level 2: Fines from $50 to $750; no imprisonment.
- Class 1 Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses: Fines from $300 to $1,000; imprisonment from 10 days to 12 months, or both.
- Class 2 Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses: Fines from $150 to $300; imprisonment from 10 to 90 days.
- Unclassified Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses: As specified in statute.
What are some examples of Misdemeanors in Colorado?
- Class 1 Misdemeanor (including extraordinary offenses): Tampering with voting equipment, domestic violence harassment, child abuse, unlawful sexual contact, etc.
- Class 2 Misdemeanor: Resisting arrest, keeping a place of prostitution, second degree criminal tampering, second degree arson, etc.
- Class 3 Misdemeanor: Hazing, fourth-degree arson, disorderly conduct, theft ($50 to $300), etc.
- Unclassified Misdemeanor: Elder abuse, elder financial exploitation, etc.
- Level 1 Drug Misdemeanor: Possession of marijuana (between 6 and 12 oz.), attempt to commit a level 4 drug felony, etc.
- Level 2 Drug Misdemeanor: Possession of marijuana (between 2 and 6 oz.), abuse of toxic vapors, attempt to commit a drug misdemeanor, etc.
- Class 1 Traffic Misdemeanor: Careless driving, engaging in illegal speed contests, etc.
- Class 2 Traffic Misdemeanor: Driving without valid license, speeding 25 mph or more (not a repair, construction or maintenance zone), etc.
- Unclassified Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses: Operation of unsafe vehicle, unlawful transportation of hazardous materials, etc.
Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Colorado?
It depends, not all types of misdemeanor offenses can be removed from a record in Colorado. It is possible to petition for the removal of misdemeanor records under certain conditions provided by state laws CO. Rev. Stat. § 24–72–702, 703, 705, 707, 710. Conditions include:
- Arrests records of cases that were acquitted, dismissed, or have absent or expired charges.
- Records of juvenile or underage crimes like underage DUI or UDD convictions
- After the required waiting period
- After satisfying all penalty conditions like jail time and fine payment.
- If there are no prior criminal records or subsequent crimes committed within the waiting period.
However, the following are not possible to expunge or seal:
- Adult DUI convictions
- Records of violent or sex crimes like domestic violence.
- Class 1 or 2 misdemeanors traffic offenses
- Conviction records concerning commercial motor vehicle or commercial driver’s license.
Individuals who qualify for expungement or sealing of records may be required to wait for some time depending on the crime. Waiting periods for sealing or expunging records are as follows:
- After a waiting period of two years for class 2 and 3 misdemeanors or level 2 drug misdemeanors.
- After a period of three years for class 1 misdemeanors or level 1 drug misdemeanors.
- Immediately after reaching 21 years of age for underage DUI,
- Five years for some other offenses.
Can a DUI Be Expunged in Colorado?
Only juvenile or underage DUI records can be expunged in Colorado. Adult conviction of DUIs or other traffic misdemeanors and infractions cannot be expunged or sealed.
What constitutes an Infraction in Colorado?
Infractions or petty offenses in Colorado, are violations of any state statute or wrong conduct as defined by the statute. They are the least severe categories of offenses in the state, compared to misdemeanors and felonies.
There are two major categories of infractions in the Colorado statutes: petty offenses and traffic infractions with both categories being sub-divided into classes.
Classes of Infractions in Colorado
Petty offenses: Petty offenses are non-criminal violations that can be punished by fines ($500 max) and up to 6 months imprisonment (not in correctional facilities). Classes of petty offenses are:
- Class 1 Petty Offenses: These are the more severe petty offenses. Penalties may include fines not exceeding $500 and imprisonment not exceeding 6 months.
- Class 2 Petty Offenses: These are less severe than class 1 petty offenses. They can be punished by fines as defined in the statute and no jail term.
- Drug Petty Offenses: As stated in statute.
- Unclassified Petty Offenses: As stated in statute.
Traffic infractions: Traffic infractions are non-criminal violations of traffic codes that can only be punished by fines and or other sanctions provided by a public body, for instance, DMV adding points to a driver’s license.
- Class A Traffic Infractions: These are less serious than traffic misdemeanors but more serious than Class B traffic infractions. Penalties range from $15 to $100 (plus surcharge).
- Class B Traffic Infractions: These are the least serious of all traffic violations and have the same penalties as Class A traffic infractions i.e. fines from $15 to $100 (plus surcharge)
- Unclassified Traffic Infractions: As stated in the statute.
What are some examples of infractions in Wisconsin?
- Class 1 petty offenses: Public indecency (first offense), property theft (less than $50), third degree trespass (on non-agricultural land), etc.
- Class 2 petty offenses: Underage purchase of tobacco or cigarette (or attempt), selling or giving underage persons tobacco or cigarette, littering, etc.
- Drug petty offenses: Possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana (not exceeding 2 oz.), etc.
- Unclassified petty offenses: Violation of solid waste disposal limits, violation of restroom access act, etc.
- Class A traffic infractions: Failure to yield the right-of-way, failure to pay tolls, running a red light, driving through a safety zone, underage DUI (first offense), etc.
- Class B traffic infractions: Allowing an unauthorized minor to drive, failure to wear seatbelt, driving with expired license (expiration not up to a year), etc.
- Unclassified Traffic Infractions: Size and weight violations, violation of restriction of minor driver.
Can Infractions be Expunged from a Wisconsin Criminal Court Record?
Records of most petty offenses can be expunged or sealed in Colorado. However, traffic infractions that were not underage violations cannot be sealed or expunged from an individual’s criminal record.