What makes a Colorado Assault Case a Felony
Assault is a charge that no person wants to be leveled against them, and is often a matter of misunderstanding. Assault can be charged in cases that turn out to be self-defense, in mutual fist-fights, and even in situations where no one was harmed at all. But worse than a false or misunderstood charge of assault is one that has been elevated into a felony. Assault and aggravated assault in Colorado can be charged as a high-level misdemeanor, but only if there are not felony aggravating factors that upgrade the case.
If your charge has been upgraded to felony assault from simple or aggravated assault, it’s time to pay very close attention. The next decades of your life could hang in the balance. Today, we’re here to highlight the seven defining factors that can upgrade an assault case into one of felony assault. If your situation is deemed to include any of these details, you will need to rely on a trustworthy criminal defense attorney to represent you in court and find the best possible approach for your defense.
Colorado assault charges do not need to be of the first degree (the most violent) to be increased to a felony charge. There are some specific qualifiers that can change your case into a felony trial no matter how or why the assault occurred or how extreme your actions may have been.
Second Assault of the Same Victim
In Colorado, the fastest way to have any assault charge elevated to a felony is if the crime is a second assault on the same victim. While most assaults are assumed to be one-time conflicts, this law is in place to discourage anyone with an ongoing problem from continuously assaulting the same person. Domestic violence assault, for example, can quickly escalate to a felony assault charge if the aggressor is found assaulting their partner more than once.
However, any second-time assault is at greater risk of a felony charge, even if you were not the one to start the fight or both assault charges are minor. If you are found having assaulted someone who you have been convicted of assaulting in the past, then there is a much higher chance that your crime will be tried as a felony and you risk felony-level penalties and jail time.
Substantial Risk of Death
Assault comes in all types and intensities. Grabbing someone by their shirt collar is assault, but so is beating someone within an inch of their life. And there is a huge legal difference between one and the other. If the victim of the assault charge is considered to have experienced substantial risk of death from injuries, concussion, or internal damage, then the crime can be elevated to felony assault.
This qualifier presumes that the assault was so severe that the person was put at risk of death as a result of the violence. However, it’s worth noting that victims who are physically frail or of poor health can reach a risk-of-death state far more easily. So even a moderate amount of force can, in some cases, land someone with a charge of felony assault with a substantial risk of death.
Extended Hospital Time for Physical Recovery
Near-death experience or high risk of death are not required for an assault to be considered a felony. This can also occur if the extent of the injuries is so great that they will take an extended convalescence (recovery time) before the victim is physically recovered. Assault to this extent must result in injuries that are not only severe but also take a long time to recover. If a victim is predicted to spend months in the hospital or has the potential to never fully recover, your assault charge may be increased to a felony.
Mental and emotional recovery is not included in the definition of extended hospital time as the result of assault. But a victim’s traumatized state may still be considered during the final sentencing.
There is also a special dispensation for assault that results in a permanent disability or disfigurement for the victim, even if the overall extent of the injuries was not very severe. Disfigurement is considered any injury that leaves extensive scarring, especially in visually important places like the face and head, arms and hands, and widespread areas of the body.
Disfigurement primarily focuses on physical appearance, as a person’s life can be changed forever by the scars from an assault. Disfigurement is also considered for felony assault charges because especially vicious assault perpetrators may seek specifically to disfigure their victims, especially in cases of domestic and sexual violence where physical appearance can play a major part. That is why disfigurement qualifies the accused for a felony of the highest degree, as it is considered particularly heinous.
Loss or Substantial Impairment of Function
Likewise, any injury that will functionally stay with the victim forever (or for a very long time) is also grounds for a severe Class A felony charge. This applies if the injuries sustained caused the loss or substantial impairment of any part of the victim’s body, whether this is a limb or an internal organ. For example, a victim who lost their hand would cause an assault to become a felony Class A charge, as would someone who was stabbed in the kidneys and would have kidney problems for the rest of their life as a result.
More commonly, victims may have limbs or joints severely damaged in a fight causing them to experience pain, limited movement, or limping.
Injury with a Dangerous Weapon
Use of a weapon always elevates the level of a crime someone is charged with. In the case of assault, attacking a victim with a dangerous (not necessarily deadly) weapon immediately elevates the assault charge to one of a class B felony. Most assault charges involve bare-handed attacks and altercations. But the moment someone picks up a tool or weapon, it becomes a far more potentially deadly situation.
Any use of a potentially dangerous weapon, whether it was meant to be a weapon or not, causes an assault to become a felony.
Extreme Indifference to Human Life
Then there is the amount of care shown to human life. In many assaults, two people hit each other, but there is still a basic respect for human life. Two rivals having a fist-fight in the street would still push each other out of the way of a moving car. This is why some assaults are charged as felonies when there is a clear lack of care for the life of the victim.
Any situation where a victim is put at risk of death, or left in a situation that is precarious to their life, can contribute to the felony aspect of an assault charge. Including a severity or type of injuries that are far more likely to cause death and disfigurement than your average haymaker.
Finally, there is a special clause for assault that involves strangulation. When one person strangles another, the intent is clearly to end their life or simulate ending their life. In cases of strangulation, a class B felony assault charge is getting off lightly rather than being charged with attempted murder. Strangulation assault cases are always considered to be serious felonies.
If you or someone you know has been charged with felony assault, now is not the time to delay. Get in touch with a Colorado defense lawyer today to help you build a stronger defense and a plan for how to move forward with this very serious charge. Having an experienced attorney on your side is your best bet for finding the best possible outcome in your complex and troubling situation. Contact us today for more information or to consult on your legal needs.