CRS 18-3-203 is the Colorado statute that defines the crime of second-degree assault. This is prosecuted as felony assault and involves intentionally hurting and causing minor to moderate injuries. Inflicting serious injury can lead to the more serious charge of first-degree assault.
In general, assault is the crime of wrongfully hurting someone.
In Colorado, there are three degrees of assault:
- First-degree assault (CRS 18-3-202),
- Second-degree assault (CRS 18-3-203), and
- Third-degree assault (CRS 18-3-204).
Second-degree assault focuses on intentional conduct that causes an injury. That injury, though, does not lead to serious and lasting damage. In some cases, a deadly weapon was involved.
Severe injuries lead to charges for first-degree assault. Injuries caused by accident can lead to charges for third-degree assault.
Examples of second-degree assault in Colorado include:
- Marv pistol-whipping his boss after getting fired his job,
- Paul shoving a police officer, and
- Lacey pushing Mark down a short flight of steps. Mark hits his head at the bottom. He suffers brain damage.
There are numerous legal defenses if you have been charged with assault. Some of the most common defenses against CRS 18-3-203 are:
Defending against an allegation of second-degree assault is important. There are serious penalties if you get convicted. They include:
- Two to six years in jail, and
- A fine of at least $2,000.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will explain:
- 1. What is second-degree assault in Colorado under CRS 18-3-203?
- 2. What are the legal defenses to an allegation of second-degree assault?
- 3. Penalties for a second-degree assault conviction in Colorado
- 4. Related offenses to second-degree assault
1. What is second-degree assault in Colorado under CRS 18-3-203?
The crime of second-degree assault in Colorado is outlined in CRS 18-3-203.1 This statute makes it a crime to do any of the following:
- Intentionally cause an injury with a deadly weapon,2
- Recklessly cause a serious injury with a deadly weapon,3
- Intentionally hurt someone to prevent a police officer, firefighter, or EMT from working,4
- Intentionally cause someone else to suffer a physical or mental impairment. This includes making them unconsciousness or drugging them without their consent,5
- Knowingly use physical force against an emergency responder, prison worker, or court worker,6
- Try to infect an emergency responder or prison worker by using bodily fluids,7
- Cause a serious injury while trying to cause a less serious injury, and8
- Intentionally hurt someone by suffocating or strangling them.9
1.1. What is the difference between a bodily injury and a serious bodily injury?
A bodily injury is “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical or mental condition.”10
A serious bodily injury, on the other hand, is more severe. A serious bodily injury involves substantial risk of death. It can also cause serious and permanent disfigurement. It can also involve the impairment of a body part or an internal organ. A serious bodily injury can also include broken or fractured bones. Burns of the second or third degree are included, as well.11
It can make a big difference if the alleged victim suffered a serious bodily injury. Non-serious injuries tend to be charged as second-degree assault under CRS 18-3-203. Serious bodily injuries tend to lead to first-degree assault charges. The jail time for a second-degree assault conviction is usually half as long.
1.2. What is a deadly weapon?
In some cases, the use of a deadly weapon is a big part of a second-degree assault charge.
A deadly weapon can be a:
- Firearm, even if it is not loaded,
- Knife or another blade,
- Bludgeon or club, including a baseball bat, or
- Anything that can be used to cause death or a serious bodily injury.12
Example: Claire is driving on the highway. She recklessly takes her eyes of the road for over ten seconds to do her makeup. She causes a car accident that paralyzes Fred. The car in this case could be a deadly weapon. Claire could be charged with second-degree assault.
2. What are the legal defenses to an allegation of second-degree assault?
There are numerous legal defenses against a second-degree assault charge. Some of the most common include:
- Self-defense or defense of others,
- Lack of intent, and
- The heat of passion.
2.1. Self-defense or the defense of others
It can be justifiable to intentionally hurt someone to defend yourself. It can also be justifiable to intentionally hurt someone to defend someone else.
Claiming self-defense or defense of others is a very complicated defense. There are numerous details that can make these defenses good or bad.
Proving this legal defense requires evidence that you:
- Believed someone else was about to use unlawful force against you or another person, and
- Used as much force as you believed necessary to protect yourself or that other person.
Additionally, those beliefs have to be deemed reasonable for this defense strategy to work.
2.2. Lack of intent to commit an assault
In most cases, second-degree assault requires intentional conduct. At the very least, it requires you to be acting recklessly with a deadly weapon.
You can defend against a second-degree assault charge by showing the injury was an accident. You can also show that you were making a mistake. Negligent conduct can also be a strong defense to an assault charge. CRS 18-3-203 requires a more culpable state of mind than negligence. If you can show it was just a mistake, you will not be convicted.
2.3. Heat of passion
Colorado’s statute outlining second-degree assault expressly allows for the heat of passion defense.13
The heat of passion defense reduces a conviction from a Class 4 felony to a Class 6 felony. A Class 6 felony is the least severe type of felony in Colorado.
Proving a heat of passion defense requires proof that:
- The victim did something that was highly provoking,
- That provocation would have created an irresistible passion to act in any reasonable person, and
- There was not enough time for you to calm down before you caused the injury.
3. Penalties for a second-degree assault conviction in Colorado
Second-degree assault is a Class 4 felony in Colorado. Class 4 felonies come with two to six years in jail. They also come with a fine of at least $2,000.
Some sentencing enhancements or reductions can change these penalties.
One sentencing reduction is the heat of passion defense. If you can prove that you were in the heat of passion during the assault, the penalties drop. They will be between 12 and 16 months in jail. The minimum fine also drops to $1,000.
Even a reduced sentence is serious, though. A conviction for second-degree assault puts a felony on your criminal background. The blemish can impact your Second Amendment rights. It can even affect your right to vote. It can also make it much more difficult to get a job. These other penalties of a conviction can be the most difficult to overcome.
4. Related offenses to second-degree assault
There are two other degrees of assault. They require slightly different injuries or levels of intent:
- First-degree assault (CRS 18-3-202). This offense usually requires a serious injury. It also frequently involves a deadly weapon,14 and
- Third-degree assault (CRS 18-3-204). This often does not require an intentional injury.15
There are also other criminal offenses that are often filed with assault charges. They are:
- Menacing (CRS 18-3-206). This makes it a crime to make someone afraid that they are about to get seriously hurt,16 and
- Domestic violence (CRS 18-6-801). This can enhance the sentence of someone accused of second-degree assault. Domestic violence requires an intimate relationship between the alleged victim and the defendant.17
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203.
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(b).
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(d).
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(c)-(c.5).
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(e).
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(f).
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(f.5) and C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(h).
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(g).
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(i).
- C.R.S. § 18-1-901(3)(c).
- People v. Martinez, 540 P. 2d 1091, 1092 (1975) and C.R.S. § 18-1-901(3)(p).
- C.R.S. § 18-1-901(3)(e).
- C.R.S. § 18-3-203(2)(a).
- C.R.S. § 18-3-202.
- C.R.S. § 18-3-204.
- C.R.S. § 18-3-206.
- C.R.S. § 18-6-801.