An overview of Colorado's laws on murder, manslaughter and homicide
Colorado has a number of criminal laws that punish the killing of another human being. The differences between the laws relate primarily to intent.
In order to help you understand the differences between Colorado's various homicide laws, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers provide, below, an overview of these crimes from most to least serious:
- 1. First degree murder
- 2. Second degree murder
- 3. Manslaughter
- 4. Criminally negligent homicide
- 5. Vehicular homicide
For more information – including defenses – about each of these crimes, we invite you to click on the links below for our pages about each individual crime. Or contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.
Murder in the first degree takes on six general forms in Colorado:
- Deliberate and premeditated killing of another person;
- Someone (other than the perpetrator or a co-conspirator) dies during, or during flight from, committed or attempted arson, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, sexual assault, or serious sexual assault on a child;
- An innocent person is convicted and executed as a result of someone's perjury;
- Someone acting with extreme indifference to the value of human life knowingly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person and someone (other than a co-conspirator) dies;
- The unlawful distribution, dispensation or sale of a controlled substance to someone under 18 on school grounds causes that person's death; or
- Someone in a position of trust with a child under 12 knowingly causes the child's death.
First degree murder can be punished by life imprisonment or the death penalty in Colorado.
You commit Colorado murder in the second degree when you knowingly (but without premeditation) cause the death of another person.
Depending on the circumstances, the penalty for second degree murder in Colorado can range from 4 to 48 years in prison. You can also be fined in an amount ranging from $3,000 to $1,000,000.
In Colorado, you commit manslaughter when:
- You recklessly causes the death of another person; or
- You intentionally cause or aid another person to commit suicide.
Colorado manslaughter can be punished, depending on the circumstances, by anywhere from 2 to 16 years in prison and a fine as high as $500,000.
You commit the Colorado crime of criminally negligent homicide when you cause the death of another person through criminal negligence.
Criminal negligence is a 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.
Consequences of criminally negligent homicide in Colorado range from 1 - 8 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $100,000.
In Colorado, vehicular homicide is a special form of criminally negligent homicide. You commit vehicular homicide when:
- You drive in a reckless manner OR while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and
- Your driving is the proximate cause of the death of another person.
Penalties for vehicular homicide resulting from reckless driving can include:
- 2-6 years in a Colorado prison, and/or
- a fine of $2,000-$500,000.
Consequences of vehicular homicide resulting from DUI or DUI of drugs can include:
- 4-12 years in a Colorado prison, and/or
- a fine of $3,000-$750,000.
The best defenses to Colorado murder, manslaughter or homicide charges are highly dependent on the facts of the specific case. Often they turn on the prosecution proving what you intended. This can be very hard to do.
When someone dies, the pressure on the police and prosecutors to find the person responsible is enormous. In their eagerness to name a culprit, however, sometimes innocent people get accused. Accidental deaths get charged as murder.
Our Colorado homicide lawyers have many years of experiencing defendants on complex charges of violent crimes. We know there are at least two sides to every story. We understand that the most important one is yours.
For a free consultation to discuss your case, we invite you to contact us. One of our caring Colorado violent crimes lawyers will respond to you quickly to help you begin planning your defense.
We represent clients throughout the state of Colorado – including, without limitation, in Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster, Centennial and Boulder.
You can reach us through 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