Criminally Negligent Homicide
(Colorado 18-3-105 C.R.S.)

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What is criminally negligent homicide?

Section 18-3-105 C.R.S. of the Colorado criminal code provides:

Any person who causes the death of another person by conduct amounting to criminal negligence commits criminally negligent homicide which is a class 5 felony.

In Colorado, criminally negligent homicide can be punished by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

To help you better understand Colorado's criminally negligent homicide law, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss, below:

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1. The legal definition of criminal negligence in Colorado

Criminal negligence is defined as the failure to perceive, through a gross deviation from the standard of reasonable care, a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death will result from your conduct.1 To convict you of homicide resulting from criminal negligence, the jury must determine that the unjustified risk was one that a reasonable person would have perceived in the same situation.2

2. The difference between criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter

You commit the Colorado crime of manslaughter when someone dies as a result of your reckless behavior. This means you are aware of – yet you consciously disregard -- a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death from your conduct.3

If you simple fail to perceive such a risk when you ought to, you have committed criminally negligent homicide.4 Another way of saying this is that criminally negligent homicide is an unintentional killing caused by your failure to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death.5

In some states, this crime is known as involuntary manslaughter.6 However, in Colorado, manslaughter is used solely to refer to behavior that rises to the degree of recklessness.

Criminally negligent homicide is a lesser-included offense of manslaughter. Juries often settle on a conviction for homicide arising from criminal negligence when the prosecutor is unable to prove that a defendant was aware of the risk of death from his conduct.

A skilled Colorado criminal lawyer can often get a prosecutor to accept a plea bargain to criminally negligent homicide after successfully challenging some of the prosecution's evidence on a more serious manslaughter or murder charge.

3. Penalties for criminally negligent homicide

Consequences of a conviction for criminally negligent homicide in Colorado can include:

  • 1-3 years in prison (followed by 2 years mandatory parole), and
  • A potential fine of $1,000-$100,000.

4. Defenses to criminally negligent homicide

As in any homicide case, it is the prosecution's burden to prove you guilty of criminally negligent homicide beyond a reasonable doubt.
But an experienced Colorado defense lawyer can greatly improve your chances by introducing evidence to show:

  • The killing was accidental;
  • You did not deviate from a reasonable standard of care;
  • Death was not a foreseeable risk of your conduct;
  • Your actions were not the proximate cause of death;
  • You were the victim of mistaken identification, or
  • The police violated your rights by:

Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been accused of Colorado murder, manslaughter, vehicular homicide, or criminally negligent homicide, we invite you to call us for a free consultation.

Our Colorado criminal attorneys understand that when someone dies, the police are under pressure to find someone to blame – even when the killing was an accident.

Communities our criminal attorneys serve include Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster, Centennial and Boulder.

For the fastest response, simply fill out the confidential form on this page and one of our caring Colorado defense lawyers will contact you to discuss your case and possible defenses. 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. People v. Taggart (1981)  621 P.2d 1375.
  2. People v. Fink (1978) 574 P.2d 81, 194 Colo. 516.

  3. People v. Shaw (1982) 646 P.2d 375.

  4. See People v. Bettis  (1979) 43 Colo.App. 104, 602 P.2d 877.
  5. People v. Hernandez (1980) 44 Colo.App. 161, 614 P.2d 900.
  6. See, e.g., California's Involuntary Manslaughter Law, Penal Code 192 (b) PC or Nevada's Involuntary Manslaughter Law, NRS 200.070.

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