Colorado "menacing" laws
(18-3-206 C.R.S.)

angry man making fist

Penalties and consequences of Colorado criminal menacing

You commit the Colorado crime of menacing when:

  • by any threat or physical action,
  • you knowingly place, or attempt to place, another person, 
  • in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

In some states, menacing is known as "battery" and/or "making criminal threats." It is frequently charged along with Colorado assault and/or Colorado domestic violence.

Colorado menacing can be a misdemeanor or a felony

If no deadly weapon was involved, menacing is a class 3 Colorado misdemeanor. Penalties can include:

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

However, menacing is a Colorado class 5 felony if:

  • you use a deadly weapon or any article a person would reasonably believe is a deadly weapon, or
  • you represent verbally or otherwise that you are armed with a deadly weapon.

Consequences of Colorado felony menacing can include:

  • 1-3 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

Defending a Colorado menacing charge

To be guilty of menacing, it is not enough that you threatened someone or that the alleged victim was scared. You had to have intended to scare someone.

However, we all know that sometimes people say stupid things, which others misunderstand. Worse, people sometimes use a person's statement to get back at them for imagined wrongs.

But even a misdemeanor menacing charge can give you a criminal record. And if you are also charged with domestic violence, you will end up with a mandatory Colorado protective order that places severe restrictions on your freedom.

If you have been charged with Colorado menacing, we recommend you call the best Colorado criminal attorney you can. 

Our compassionate Colorado domestic violence lawyers have decades of experience defending clients accused of making criminal threats. We offer free consultations by phone or in person.

And to help you better understand Colorado's criminal menacing laws, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

man threatening a cowering woman with a knife

1. What is criminal menacing in Colorado?

Section 18-3-206 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) provides:

(1) A person commits the crime of menacing if, by any threat or physical action, he or she knowingly places or attempts to place another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. Menacing is a class 3 misdemeanor, but, it is a class 5 felony if committed:

(a) By the use of a deadly weapon or any article used or fashioned in a manner to cause a person to reasonably believe that the article is a deadly weapon; or
(b) By the person representing verbally or otherwise that he or she is armed with a deadly weapon.

1.1. Serious bodily injury

Under 18-1-901(3)(p), “serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.

1.2. Use of a deadly weapon

For purposes of Colorado's criminal menacing law, you use a deadly weapon when:

You use or display a weapon (even if the victim does not see it),1 or
You use or display any article that a reasonable person would believe is a deadly weapon.

Examples of deadly weapons include (but are not limited to):

  • Guns,
  • Knives,
  • Baseball bats,
  • Metal tools (such as hammers),
  • Chainsaws,
  • Blow torches, 
  • Your fists (depending on the circumstances), and
  • Any hidden object you represent to be a deadly weapon.

1.3. “Knowingly” placed someone in fear

The crime of menacing requires that you knowingly place or attempt to place another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. The test is not whether the victim was in actual fear, but on your intent and conduct.

It doesn't even matter whether you actually intended to cause fear. Simply being aware that the other person would be placed in fear of imminent serious bodily injury is enough to satisfy the requirement.2

The prosecutor doesn't even need to prove that the victim was actually afraid. All that is necessary is that you were aware that your conduct was practically certain to cause fear.3

Conversely, however, the fact that the victim was afraid does not prove that you were aware your actions would put that person in fear. The alleged victim's reaction is simply one element for a jury to consider in deciding whether had the requisite intent to place victim in fear.4

2. Penalties for Colorado menacing

2.1. Misdemeanor menacing

Making a criminal threat is misdemeanor criminal menacing in Colorado if no deadly weapon was involved.

Consequences of Colorado misdemeanor menacing can include:

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

2.2. Felony menacing

When you display or use a deadly weapon or an article a person would reasonably believe is a deadly weapon, menacing becomes a class 5 felony, even if the other person didn't see it.

Consequences of Colorado felony menacing can include:

  • 1 - 3 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.
man in black hoodie holding baseball bat in threatening manner

3. Defenses to Colorado menacing

There are numerous defenses to Colorado menacing charges. Which ones are appropriate depend on the facts of your case. However, defenses we commonly see include (but are not limited to):

  • Your statements were not threats.
    • Example: You were angry at your ex and wrote a song about her. You posted the lyrics online with an explanation that you wrote the song when you were hurt. Your ex got scared, but that wasn't your intention.
  • You did not have a weapon.
  • You had a weapon, but it wasn't deadly.
    • Example: During an argument at the dinner table, you picked up a fork and told your spouse if he ever ruined a steak like that again you would stab him.
  • You reasonably didn't realize your statements would scare anyone.

4. Federal law against making criminal threats -- 18 U.S.C.A. 875

It is against United Stated federal law to transmit a threatening communication in interstate or foreign commerce. Under 18 U.S.C.A. 875, this includes threats made in any medium, including on the internet.

Examples of making a criminal threat in foreign or interstate commerce include:

  • Mailing a threat to someone in another state,
  • Emailing a threat to someone in another state,
  • Posting a threat on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc), or
  • Threatening someone in another state over the phone.

Penalties under 18 U.S.C.A. 875 can include both heavy fines and:

  • Up to 20 years in federal prison if the threat includes a ransom or reward demand,
  • Up to 20 years in federal prison if the communication includes threatened kidnapping with an extortion attempt,
  • Up to 5 years in federal prison for a threat to kidnap or injure someone,
  • Up to 2 years in federal prison for the attempt to extort someone by threatening to injure someone's property or reputation.

Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been charged with criminal menacing in Colorado, we invite you to contact us and discover why we are some of the best assault and battery lawyers in Denver.

Making a criminal threat carries serious penalties, especially if a seriously bodily injury was threatened.

Our caring Colorado criminal lawyers understand, however, that in the heat of an argument, intentions can be misunderstood. So whether you are looking for the best Denver domestic violence lawyer, or someone to help you with a workplace dispute that turned ugly, we may be able to help to help.

Simply fill out the form on this page or contact us at our convenient Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202

Legal references:

  1. People v. Lopez (2015) 2015 WL 1844438, rehearing denied, certiorari denied.
  2. People v. Saltray (1998) 969 P.2d 729, rehearing denied, certiorari denied.
  3. People v. District Court of Colorado's Seventeenth Judicial Dist. (1996) 926 P.2d 567.
  4. People v. Gagnon (1985) 703 P.2d 661.

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