Criminal attempt
(Colorado 18-2-101 C.R.S.)

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What is criminal attempt?

Criminal law is one of the few areas of life in which failure is rewarded.

In Colorado, if you try to commit a criminal action, but fail, you are guilty of criminal attempt. However, in most cases, the penalty for criminal attempt is one class of offense lighter than punishment would have been had you succeeded.

To help you better understand criminal attempt sentencing, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss, below:

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1. What is Colorado criminal attempt?

The definition of criminal attempt is set forth in section 18-2-101 of the Colorado criminal code. 18-2-101 (1) C.R.S. provides:

A person commits criminal attempt if, acting with the kind of culpability otherwise required for commission of an offense, he engages in conduct constituting a substantial step toward the commission of the offense. A substantial step is any conduct, whether act, omission, or possession, which is strongly corroborative of the firmness of the actor's purpose to complete the commission of the offense. Factual or legal impossibility of committing the offense is not a defense if the offense could have been committed had the attendant circumstances been as the actor believed them to be, nor is it a defense that the crime attempted was actually perpetrated by the accused.

You also commit criminal intent when you aid someone else (conspire) in committing conduct that would constitute complicity under 18-1-603 C.R.S.:

A person is legally accountable as principal for the behavior of another constituting a criminal offense if, with the intent to promote or facilitate the commission of the offense, he or she aids, abets, advises, or encourages the other person in planning or committing the offense.

Thus you are liable for criminal attempt if your conduct would have amounted to complicity had the crime been successful -- even if the other person never actually commits or attempts to commit the offense.

And if the crime would have constituted a Colorado “crime of violence,” then attempt to commit it is also considered a violent crime.1

2. Consequences of criminal attempt

2.1. Attempted drug crimes

In general, criminal attempt to commit a level 1 or level 2 drug misdemeanor is a level 2 drug misdemeanor, with penalties of:

  • 3-12 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $250-$1,000.

Except as otherwise provided by law, criminal attempt to commit a level 1 drug felony is a level 2 drug felony; criminal attempt to commit a level 2 drug felony is a level 3 drug felony; criminal attempt to commit a level 3 drug felony is a level 4 drug felony; and criminal attempt to commit a level 4 drug felony is a level 4 drug felony.2

For more information on specific drug felony sentencing, please see our articles on specific Colorado felony drug crimes.

2.2. Attempt to commit a Colorado petty offense

Attempt to commit a petty offense is punished the same way as if the crime had been successful.3

If the crime is class 1 petty offense, consequences can include:

  • A fine of up to $500, and/or
  • 6 months in jail.4

2.3. Attempt to commit a Colorado misdemeanor

Criminal attempt to commit a class 1 misdemeanor is a class 2 misdemeanor.5 The base penalty for a class 2 misdemeanor is:

  • 3-12 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $250-$1,000.

Criminal attempt to commit any other misdemeanor is a class 3 misdemeanor.6 The base penalty is:

  • Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $50-$750.

2.4. Attempt to commit a Colorado felony

Other than class 6 felonies or crimes for which no penalty is specifically provided, criminal attempt to commit a Colorado felony lowers the base class of the crime by one.7

In other words, criminal attempt to commit a class 1 felony is a class 2 felony; criminal attempt to commit a class 2 felony is a class 3 felony; criminal attempt to commit a class 3 felony is a class 4 felony; criminal attempt to commit a class 4 felony is a class 5 felony; and criminal attempt to commit a class 5 felony is a class 6 felony.

Criminal attempt to commit a class 6 felony or a felony for which no penalty is specifically provided is a class 6 felony.

For more information on felony sentencing, please see our articles on specific Colorado felony crimes, such as Colorado attempted murder.

2.5. Attempt to escape confinement

Attempt to escape custody, Colorado 18-8-208.1 C.R.S., is punished the same way whether or not you succeed.8

Attempted escape can be charged as a petty offense, a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on what you were in jail or prison for.

3. Defenses to criminal attempt

Defenses to criminal attempt include all available defenses to the specific crime you are accused of attempting.

Additionally, it is an affirmative defense to criminal attempt charges that:

  • You abandoned your effort to commit the crime, or 
  • You otherwise prevented commission of the crime.

The burden is on you to prove that you did one of these two things under circumstances manifesting the complete and voluntary renunciation of criminal intent.

Call us for help…

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Attempting a crime is almost as serious as committing it. More often than not, you will simply be charged with a crime as if you had succeeded and attempt will be a fall-back for the jury in case the prosecution is unable to prove one or more elements of the crime.

A skilled criminal lawyer can often use attempt as a plea bargain to get your charges reduced. But we are not one of those firms that automatically tries to do this. Whatever it takes to get you the best outcome on your Colorado criminal charges, that's what we will do. If a plea bargain is not in your best interest, we are not afraid to take your case to trial in front of a jury.

To find out how we can fight for you, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. One of our caring and experienced Colorado criminal attorneys will response to you quickly so that we can get started planning the best defense to your Colorado criminal case.

For the fastest response, fill out the convenient and confidential form on this page. Or call us at our Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
720-955-6112


Legal references:

  1. 18-2-101 (3.5) C.R.S.
  2. 18-2-101 (10)(a) C.R.S.
  3. 18-2-101 (8) C.R.S.
  4. 18-2-101 (6) C.R.S.
  5. 18-1.3-503 C.R.S.
  6. 18-2-101 (7) C.R.S.
  7. 18-2-101 (4) C.R.S.
  8. 18-2-101 (9) C.R.S.

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