Colorado "Unlawful Sexual Contact" Laws
(18-3-404 C.R.S.)

businessman touching a woman's breast through her blouse

Unwanted touching of an intimate part in Colorado

Section 18-3-404 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) sets forth the crime of unlawful sexual contact. In some states this crime is known as sexual battery.

Sexual contact is a less serious version of sexual assault. Whereas sexual assault involves penetration or intrusion, sexual contact usually involves unwanted touching, such as groping or fondling.

What does Colorado's "unlawful sexual contact" law prohibit?

You violate 18-3-404 C.R.S., Colorado's sexual contact law, when:

  • You knowingly touch someone's intimate parts without their consent,
  • You knowingly cause someone to touch your intimate parts without their consent, or
  • You entice a child to expose his or her intimate parts or to have sex with another person for your sexual gratification.

The consequences of a sexual contact conviction

Unlawful sexual contact is usually a class 1 misdemeanor, as well as an “extraordinary risk” crime. Extraordinary risk crimes carry longer maximum sentences than other crimes with the same classification.

As a result, penalties for misdemeanor sexual contact can include:

  • 6 months-2 years in jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to $500-$5,000.

However, if the victim is drugged or compelled to submit to the sexual contact by force, intimidation, or threat, sexual contact becomes a Colorado felony. As a felony, sexual contact carries consequences that include:

  • 2-8 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

And if you used or threatened the use of a deadly weapon, you face an increased sentence for a Colorado violent crime. As a result, you will face:

  • 5 years-life in prison.

Additionally, a conviction on either felony or misdemeanor sexual contact charges will require you register as a sex offender with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's sex offender registry.

To help you better understand the Colorado crime of sexual contact, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

man spanking a girl bent over his knee in a short skirt

1. What constitutes unlawful sexual contact in Colorado?

18-3-404 C.R.S., Colorado's sexual contact law, has two main components:

  • Unwanted touching of intimate parts without consent, or
  • For the purpose of your own sexual gratification, enticing a child under eighteen to:
    • Expose his or her intimate parts,or 
    • Have sex with another person.1 

Note that this last part is different than the crime of enticement of a child, 18-3-305, C.R.S.. That crime involves enticing a child under the age of fifteen years to enter a vehicle, building, room, or secluded place with the intent to commit sexual assault or unlawful sexual contact upon that child yourself.

1.1. The legal definition of “consent”

“Consent” means cooperation in act or attitude pursuant to an exercise of free will and with knowledge of the nature of the act. A current or previous relationship is not sufficient to constitute consent. Neither is submission under the influence of fear.2

1.2. The legal definition of “sexual contact”

18-3-401 (4) C.R.S. provides: “Sexual contact” means the knowing touching of the victim's intimate parts by the actor, or of the actor's intimate parts by the victim, or the knowing touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victim's or actor's intimate parts if that sexual contact is for the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.

  • Examples:
    • You intentionally put your hand on a server's buttocks in a restaurant because you “like her ass”;
    • You rub your crotch against another rider's buttocks on a crowded subway;
    • You touch a child's breasts through her tee-shirt and remark how fast she's growing up;
    • You stuff your co-worker's hand down your pants.

Sexual contact does not include intrusion or penetration, as defined below. Unwanted intrusion or penetration falls within Colorado's law against sexual assault.

1.3. The legal definition of “intimate parts”

“Intimate parts” means the external genitalia or the perineum or the anus or the buttocks or the pubes or the breast of any person.3

1.4. The legal definition of “sexual intrusion”

“Sexual intrusion” means any intrusion, however slight, by any object or any part of a person's body, except the mouth, tongue, or penis, into the genital or anal opening of another person's body if that sexual intrusion can reasonably be construed as being for the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.4

1.5. The legal definition of “sexual penetration”

“Sexual penetration” means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, analingus, or anal intercourse. Emission need not be proved as an element of any sexual penetration. Any penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime of sexual assault [not contact].5

2. Penalties for unlawful sexual contact

2.1. Misdemeanor sexual conduct

Unlawful sexual contact is a usually a Colorado class 1 misdemeanor. It is also an extraordinary risk crime, meaning the maximum sentence is six months longer than other class 1 misdemeanors.

Consequences of misdemeanor sexual contact can include:

  • 6 months-2 years in jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to $500-$5,000.6

2.2. Felony sexual contact

Sexual contact becomes an extraordinary risk felony when the victim is compelled to submit to the sexual contact by:

  • Drugging, 
  • Force,
  • Intimidation, or 
  • Threat.

As a felony, Colorado sexual contact consequences include:

  • 2-8 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.7

2.3. Violent crime enhancement

Sexual contact becomes a Colorado violent crime if during commission of the offense:

  • You used, possessed, or threatened the use of, a deadly weapon; or
  • You caused serious bodily injury or death to any other person (other than an accomplice).

If your offense is designated a violent crime, prison time increases to:

  • 5 years to life in prison.

3. Sex offender registration

If you are convicted of (or plead guilty or no contest to) sexual contact, you will be entered into the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's sex offender registry.8

The entry will include:

  • Your name, 
  • Your address,
  • Your date of birth;
  • Your photo,
  • Your physical description;
  • Your crime(s) and date(s) of conviction;
  • Your predatory habits (modus operandi), if known; and
  • Whether you are considered a “sexually violent predator” (SVP).

3.1. Failure to register as a sex offender

Failure to register as a sex offender is a Colorado class 6 felony. Penalties for failing to register can include:

  • 1 – 1 ½ years in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

3.2. Can I be removed from the sex offender registry?

At the time of you conviction, you may petition the court not to add you to the registry if:

  • You were younger than eighteen years of age at the time of the commission of the unlawful sexual contact; 
  • You have not been previously charged with unlawful sexual behavior; 
  • It is a first offense for misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact;
  • A sex offender evaluation recommends exempting you based upon the best interests of both you and the community; and
  • The court makes written findings of fact specifying the grounds for granting such exemption.

Otherwise, provided you do not commit any other sex crimes, you may petition the court to be removed the Colorado sex offender registry 10 years from your complete discharge following your sexual contact sentence.9

4. Defenses to sexual contact

The best defense to a Colorado charge of unlawful sexual contact depends on the facts of your case. Common defenses include (but are not limited to):

  • There was no contact,
  • The contact was accidental,
  • The other person consented to the contact,
  • You reasonably didn't know the other person didn't consent,
  • There was a legitimate reason for the contact – for example, you were babysitting a child and were reasonably checking to see if the child was sick or injured,
  • You weren't touching the other person for sexual gratification,
  • You introduced a child to another adult innocently.

Call us for help…


If you or someone you know has been charged with unlawful sexual contact, we invite you to call us for a free consultation.

Innocent people are often charged with sexual contact, simply because their intentions were misunderstood. Maybe the touching was accidental or you thought it was welcome. Maybe it never happened at all.

Whatever the reason for the accusation, our caring Colorado criminal attorneys are here to listen and to help.

Don't let a simple mistake get you labeled a sex offender for the next ten years. Call us today and find out we why are some of the best sex crimes lawyers in Denver and Colorado.

Communities we serve include Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Pueblo, Arvada, Westminster and Centennial.

You can reach us through the form on this page, or call us at our centrally located Denver office:

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

Legal references:

  1. 18-3-401 (1.5) C.R.S.
  2. Same.
  3. 18-3-401 (2) C.R.S.
  4. 18-3-401 (5) C.R.S.
  5. 18-3-401 (6) C.R.S.
  6. 18-3-404 (2)(a) C.R.S.
  7. 18-3-404 (2)(b) C.R.S.
  8. 16-22-103 C.R.S.
  9. 16-22-113 C.R.S.

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