Attempted Murder in Colorado

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What is attempted murder?

In Colorado, you are guilty of the crime of attempted murder when you knowingly engage in conduct which creates a grave risk of death.

If you do so under circumstances evidencing extreme indifference to the value of human life generally, you commit attempted first degree murder.

Otherwise, the crime is attempted murder in the second degree.

Generally attempted murder occurs when you satisfy all the elements of a murder charge other than killing the victim. For example, you deliberately shoot at someone and you miss, or you hit the person but he or she does not die.

Penalties for attempted murder

Attempted second degree murder is a Colorado class 3 felony as well as a Colorado “crime of violence.” Punishment for attempted second degree murder can include:

  • 10-32 years in prison (plus 5-years mandatory parole), and
  • A possible fine of $3,000-$750,000.

Attempted first degree murder is a Colorado class 2 felony and a crime of violence. Consequences of an attempted first degree murder conviction are:

  • 16-48 years in prison (plus 5-years mandatory parole), and
  • A potential fine of $5,000-$1,000,000.

Defenses to Colorado attempted murder

Defenses to attempted murder charges include all the defenses available for the specific crime you are accused of attempting. Without limitation, these defenses include:

  • The act was accidental;
  • You were acting in self-defense or defense of someone else;
  • Your conduct did not create a grave risk of death;
  • You didn't knowingly engage in such conduct;
  • You were the victim of mistaken identification;
  • You were not guilty by reason of insanity;
  • The police engaged in an illegal search and seizure or other misconduct, such as coercing your confession; or
  • You did not succeed in killing the alleged victim because:
    • You abandoned your effort to commit the crime, or 
    • The dangerous act was done by others and you prevented commission of the crime.

In addition, since first-degree murder requires extreme difference to human life generally, you may have a partial defense to first-degree attempted murder if your potentially lethal conduct was specifically directed toward one particular person. This would knock the crime down to attempted murder in the second degree, or even attempted third-degree assault.1

However, you can be guilty of both attempted first-degree murder and second degree murder arising out of the same act if while attempting to kill a specific person you exhibit an extreme indifference to the lives of other people generally.2

Example:

  • Reggie is angry at his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Knowing that they are standing directly behind the closed door of their house to greet guests at a party, Reggie fires multiple gunshots at the door from outside the house. Even though he is trying to hit two specific people, his shots could kill anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity of the door. Thus even if the shots don't hit anyone, Reggie may be guilty of attempted second degree murder of his ex and her boyfriend, and attempted first degree murder of other party goers. 

Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been charged with murder, attempted murder or assault in Colorado, we invite you to call us for a free consultation.

One of our experienced and compassionate Colorado criminal lawyers will get back to you right away to discuss your case and possible defenses.

We represent clients accused of violent crimes in communities throughout the state of Colorado, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster, Centennial and Boulder.

Don't get sent away to prison for decades because of a simple mistake or a charge that can't be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Simply fill out the 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. See People v. Perez, App.1998, 972 P.2d 1072, rehearing denied, certiorari denied.
  2. Candelaria v. People, 2006, 148 P.3d 178.
  3. See  People v. Ellis, App.2001, 30 P.3d 774, certiorari denied, denial of post-conviction relief affirmed 2007 WL 2052158, certiorari denied 2007 WL 3133875, habeas corpus denied 2010 WL 2692171, certificate of appealability denied 2011 WL 1850509.

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