Colorado Stalking: "Vonnie’s Law"
18-3-602, C.R.S.

Colorado stalking is a felony under "Vonnie's Law"

In Colorado, stalking involves more than just bothering another person. Stalking is predatory behavior. It requires both a credible threat and repeated behavior that reasonably causes someone to be afraid or suffer serious emotional distress.

It isn't stalking if:

  • You only made a threat once,
  • Your threat wasn't credible,
  • Your threat wasn't against the person or his/her intimate partner or immediate family member,
  • A reasonable person wouldn't have been scared or distressed, or
  • The other person was not, in fact, scared or distressed.

Consequences of Colorado stalking

Stalking is both a felony and an “extraordinary risk” crime in Colorado.

First time stalking penalties in Colorado can include:

  • 1-5 years in Colorado prison (with mandatory 2-year parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

If, however, you stalked in violation of a protective order, or it is a second or subsequent stalking offense, penalties can increase to:

  • 2-10 years in Colorado prision (with mandatory 3-year parole), and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

You may also serve time for a separate misdemeanor if you violated a Colorado protective order – a sentence that will be served consecutively and in addition to your sentence for stalking.

To help you better understand Vonnie's law, our top Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below: 

phone with hands of woman texting

1. How is “stalking” defined in Colorado?

To be guilty of stalking in Colorado you must either:

  1. Make a credible threat against someone, AND 
  2. In connection with that threat repeatedly approach, contact, communicate with, or follow that person or that person's immediate family member or intimate partner;

OR

  1. Repeatedly follow, approach, contact, place under surveillance, or communicate with someone or that person's immediate family or intimate partner,
  2. in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress, and
  3. such person actually does suffer serious emotional distress.

Specifically, Colorado Revised Statutes section 18-3-602 (1), C.R.S. provides:

"A person commits stalking if directly, or indirectly through another person, the person knowingly:

(a) Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with the threat, repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, or places under surveillance that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship; or

(b) Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with the threat, repeatedly makes any form of communication with that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship, regardless of whether a conversation ensues; or

(c) Repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, places under surveillance, or makes any form of communication with another person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress and does cause that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship to suffer serious emotional distress. For purposes of this paragraph (c), a victim need not show that he or she received professional treatment or counseling to show that he or she suffered serious emotional distress.

1.1. The legal definition of “credible threat”

“Credible threat” means a threat, physical action, or repeated conduct that would cause a reasonable person to be in fear for the person's safety or the safety of his or her immediate family or of someone with whom the person has or has had a continuing relationship. The threat need not be directly expressed if the totality of the conduct would cause a reasonable person such fear.1

Credible threats can be made in-person or by:

  • phone,
  • email,
  • text,
  • written or typed letter,
  • gestures,
  • actions, or
  • any other means of communication. 

1.2. The legal definition of “immediate family”

“Immediate family” includes a person's spouse and the person's parent, grandparent, sibling, or child.2

1.3. The legal definition of “repeated” or “repeatedly”

“Repeated” or “repeatedly” means on more than one occasion.3

prison

2. Colorado stalking penalties

2.1. First offense

Unless you are violating a protective order or a condition of parole or probation, a first Colorado stalking offense is a class 5 felony.4

However, because stalking is a Colorado "extraordinary risk" crime, the maximum prison sentence can be increased by two additional years.5

As a result, the consequences of a class 5 Colorado felony can include:

  • 1-5 years in prison (with mandatory 2-year parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

2.2. Subsequent offense within 7 years of a prior stalking conviction

A second or subsequent stalking offense in Colorado is a class 4 felony if you have been convicted of stalking within the previous seven years.

Consequences of a Colorado class 4 felony stalking conviction can include:

  • 2-10 years in Colorado prision (with mandatory 3-year parole), and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

2.3. Stalking in violation of a protective order or a condition of probation or parole

If at the time you commit a stalking offense, you are violating a protective order or a condition of parole or probation, it is a class 4 felony, even if it is your first offense.6

Potential penalties of a class 4 felony stalking conviction include:

  • 2-10 years in Colorado prision (with mandatory 3-year parole), and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

3. Defenses to stalking

Since the introduction of Vonnie's law in 2012, Colorado takes stalking charges quite seriously. But the elements necessary to prove stalking are strict. Often, the alleged victim or a witness simply misunderstood your intentions.

While the best defenses to Colorado stalking charges depend on the specific facts of your case, common defenses often include:

  • You didn't threaten anyone.
  • Everyone understood that you were exaggerating for effect.
    • Example: A co-worker asks you for your chocolate chip cookie recipe. You reply, “I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.”
  • The threat was too grandiose for a reasonable person to take seriously.
    • Example: You tell someone that if he or she doesn't go out with you, you'll have the CIA assassinate the person's mother.
  • The alleged victim didn't suffer any serious emotional distress.
    • Example: You threaten to hurt your spouse if he or she ever leaves you, but numerous people heard your spouse joking about the threat with friends.
  • You only contacted the victim once.
  • You contacted or followed the victim more than once, but it had nothing to do with your threat.
    • Example: In a fit of anger, you threaten to beat up a co-worker. But after things have settled down, you go over to his or her house several times to discuss a project the two of you are working on.

4. The history of Vonnie's law

In July 2010, a Leadville teaching assistant named Vonnie Flores complained to the Lakewood County sheriff that her neighbor had been stalking her for two years. He would follow her, touch her, and make inappropriate comments, as well as look through her windows at her and her husband.

The neighbor was eventually arrested for stalking, but made bail. Two days later, he was put under a temporary restraining order that ordered him to stay away from Flores and have no contact with her whatsoever.

A few weeks after the protective order was issued, the neighbor shot and killed Flores before turning the gun on himself.

In response, in 2012, Rep. Millie Hamner introduced House Bill 1060. The bill became Colorado Revised Statutes 18-3-602, C.R.S., known as “Vonnie's Law” in memory of Flores.

Under Vonnie's law, people arrested for stalking cannot be released on bail until appearing before a judge. The judge explains the protective order and has the defendant sign a document acknowledging that he or she understands the terms of release.

Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been accused of stalking under Vonnie's law in Colorado, we invite you to contact us.

We understand that human relationships are complicated. People can get angry, scared or vindictive. And when they do, they sometimes make false accusations or mistakes.

Our caring Colorado domestic violence lawyers will make sure both the prosecutor and the jury hear your side of the story. We'll make sure they consider all the evidence.

We offer free consultations by phone or at our conveniently located Denver home office:

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


Legal references:

  1. 18-3-602 (2)(b), C.R.S.
  2. 18-3-602 (2)(c), C.R.S.
  3. 18-3-602 (2)(d), C.R.S.
  4. 18-3-602 (3)(a), C.R.S.
  5.  18-3-602 (4), C.R.S.
  6. 18-3-602 (5), C.R.S

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