CRS § 18-3-405.3 defines the Colorado crime of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust as (1) having supervisory responsibilities over a child under the age of 18 years and (2) engaging in sexual contact with the child.
- A priest groping a choir boy outside his underwear
- A pediatrician caressing a patient’s backside
- A middle school teacher fondling a student’s breast
|Age of the child||Colorado penalties for sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust|
|The child is 15, 16 or 17 years old, and there was no pattern of sexual abuse||Class 4 felony |
If there were threats, force or bodily injury, the prison sentence is 5 years to life in prison.
|The child is under 15 years old, or there was a pattern of sexual abuse||Class 3 felony |
If there were threats, force or bodily injury, the prison sentence is 10 years to life in prison.
To help you better understand the law, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following:
- 1. What is “sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust”?
- 2. What does it mean to be “in a position of trust”?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. How can I fight the charges?
- 5. How we go about proving your innocence
- Additional resources
1. What is “sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust”?
Although this crime is called “sexual assault,” the term is misleading. Sex assault on a child is the underage equivalent of CRS 18-3-404 Colorado’s sexual contact law.
Sexual contact (and therefore, sex assault on a minor) does not involve penetration or intrusion. Instead, it consists of touching or fondling the victim’s
- buttocks, or
- genital area for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.
Sexual assault on a child charges apply when either:
- you touch the minor, or
- you cause the minor to touch you.
To commit the crime of sexual assault on a minor, it is not necessary that either person be naked or that harsh physical force be used. Physical contact or sexual activity through clothing is sufficient if the purpose is sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.1
Also see our article on Colorado child molestation laws.
2. What does it mean to be “in a position of trust”?
Under Colorado law, you occupy a position of trust with respect to a minor whenever you are responsible, in any way and for any amount of time, for the child’s health, education, welfare, or supervision.
Examples in cases that we see include the child’s:
- doctor or other health care provider,
- tutor, or
Note that unlike CRS 18-3-405 – Colorado’s regular sex assault on a child law – sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust applies to all children under 18 years of age, regardless of the difference in age between the minor and you.2
3. What are the penalties?
3.1. Basic criminal penalties
Sex assault on a minor by one in a position of trust is usually a Colorado class 4 felony when the minor is 15, 16 or 17 years old. The sentence is:
- 2 to 6 years in prison, and/or
- $2,000 to $500,000.
In addition, you face 10 years to life on Sex Offender Intensive Supervision Probation (SOISP).
3.2. Child under 15 or habitual sexual abuse
Sex assault on a minor by one in a position of trust increases to a Colorado class 3 felony if:
- The minor was under 15, or
- The offense was part of a pattern of sexual abuse.
In either of these cases, the penalties for Colorado sex assault on a minor by one in a position of trust can include:
- 4 to 12 years in prison, and/or
- $3,000 to $750,000.
In addition, you face 20 years to life on SOISP. Plus if a pattern of abuse is alleged, there is no statute of limitations on the offense.3
3.3. Crime of violence
Sex assault on a minor is categorized as a Colorado violent crime if, during the commission of the offense:
- you cause some bodily injury, or
- you used threats, intimidation, or force against the victim.
Doing any of these “aggravators” will result in an enhanced mandatory minimum sentence of:
- 5 years if the minor was 15, 16 or 17, or,
- 10 years if the minor was under 15 or there was a pattern of abuse.
Sexual offenses that are violent crimes also carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, regardless of the class of the felony.4
3.4. Colorado sex offender registration
A child sexual assault conviction requires you to register on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s sex offender registry.
If you fail to register as a sex offender, you face class 6 felony charges and penalties of:
- 1 – 1 ½ years in jail, and/or
- A fine of $1,000-$100,000.5
4. How can I fight the charges?
Here at Colorado Legal Defense Group, we have represented literally thousands of people facing sex crime allegations and have a long track record of getting these cases reduced or dismissed.
In our experience, the best defenses to criminal charges of sexual assault on a minor by one in a position of trust are:
- The touching was accidental.
- You did not touch the minor.
- The minor did not touch you.
- The touching did not involve an intimate part.
- The touching was not for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.
- You did not occupy a position of trust with respect to the minor.
- The “victim of child sex abuse” falsely accused you or misconstrued your innocent touching as sexual behavior.
- Law enforcement committed misconduct (such as a police officer coercing a confession).
The vast majority of criminal charges resolve through plea bargains. Though should the case reach trial, the district attorney has the high burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
5. How we go about proving your innocence
Our Colorado sex crimes lawyers know that innocent people are often accused of unlawful sexual contact with a minor. Usually it is the child’s word against yours – and children are not the most reliable of witnesses.
- Sometimes they just misinterpret an innocent situation.
- Sometimes they are used as a weapon between battling adults.
So although it can be upsetting, like all the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys, we conduct a thorough background check of the accuser and potential witnesses. We do this by:
- Subpoenaing their school, counseling, and medical records;
- Checking their email records and social networking accounts;
- Conducting interviews of friends, family, schoolmates and social media contacts; and
- Running background checks of all available public documents.
As top Denver sex crimes attorney Michael Becker explains:
“People rightly try to teach their children that intimate touching is wrong. But children are impressionable. Sometimes they mistake affection and concern with sex offenses. Also sometimes they are persuaded to lie. The earlier we come on board, the easier it is for us to uncover improper motives and preserve our client’s good name.”
- National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline – RAINN
- Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse – RAINN
- Sexual Assault and Mental Health – Mental Health America
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – National Institute of Mental Health
- Child Sexual Abuse Statistics – VictimsOfCrime.org
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Child Abuse Prevention – Colorado Department of Education
- Abused Children’s Fund
- Child Maltreatment – WHO
- CRS 18-3-405.3. By contrast, Colorado’s sexual assault law (CRS 18-3-402) comprises rape, anal rape, forced oral sex, or violation with an object – regardless of the victim’s age.
- See also People v. Roggow (Colo. 2013) 318 P.3d 446; also see Manjarrez v. People (Colo. 2020) 465 P.3d 547. Specifically, CRS 18-3-401(3.5) states that: “One in a “position of trust” includes, but is not limited to, any person who is a parent or acting in the place of a parent and charged with any of a parent’s rights, duties, or responsibilities concerning a minor, including a guardian or someone otherwise responsible for the general supervision of a minor’s welfare, or a person who is charged with any duty or responsibility for the health, education, welfare, or supervision of a minor, including foster care, child care, family care, or institutional care, either independently or through another, no matter how brief, at the time of an unlawful act.”
- See also People v. Simon (Colo. 2011) 266 P.3d 1099.
- Also see CRS 18-3-405.3. The minimum sentence is equal to the midpoint of the extraordinary risk sentencing range.
- See also CRS 18-3-412.5 – CRS 18-3-412.6.