Alternatives in Imposition of Sentence in Colorado
CRS 18-1.3-104

In Colorado, the trial court has a number of alternatives to jail or prison judgment for a criminal sentence. Sentencing options range from

  • probation,
  • specialized restitution, and
  • community service programs, to
  • imprisonment or the death sentence.

Sentencing alternatives depend on the specific crime, the defendant's history, and potential impact on the safety of the victims. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

Are you a veteran facing criminal charges in Colorado? You may be eligible for Veterans Trauma Court and avoid getting a conviction or going to jail.

1. What Are Alternative Sentences?

The court has a number of sentencing alternatives available after an individual is found guilty of a criminal offense. The most common sentences involve a fine, prison time, or probation. However, other alternatives include community service programs, home detention programs, or community corrections programs. The alternatives available may be limited based on the type of criminal offense. 1

2. What sentencing alternatives are available?

2.1. Probation

“The defendant may be granted probation unless any provision of law makes him or her ineligible for probation. The granting or denial of probation and the conditions of probation including the length of probation shall not be subject to appellate review unless probation is granted contrary to the provisions of this title.”2

Probation generally allows an individual to serve their sentence outside of a correctional institution. They may be able to return home and return to their family, job, and community. Probation is more commonly granted to individuals who are not convicted of violent crimes, do not have a long criminal history, and are not considered a serious danger to the community.

Individuals on probation still have to meet a number of conditions as part of their probation. These restrictions can vary, depending on the individual and the specific criminal offense. Common probationary conditions may include:

  • Submit to random searches
  • Submit to random drug or alcohol testing
  • Alcohol sampling device
  • GPS tracking device
  • Curfew
  • Mandatory counseling
  • Drug or alcohol education
  • Restricted driving privileges
  • Avoiding contact with certain individuals
  • Travel restrictions
  • Payment of supervision fees
  • No possession of a firearm
  • Maintain employment

Violating probation can result in additional penalties, including extended probation, additional restrictions, or even imprisonment.

2.2. Imprisonment

Generally, the options available for the sentencing of a class 6 felony or higher, or a level 4 drug felony or higher include imprisonment for a definite period of time.3

2.3. Community Service Programs

Community service programs and specialized victim restitution programs are available for first-time offenders who have committed property-related offenses or other minor crimes. Specialized restitution and community service programs offer alternative sentencing options for certain criminal offenses. These may allow individuals to continue employment, stay connected to the community, and seek substance abuse treatment instead of serving a sentence in prison.4

While serving a community-based sentence, offenders may be subject to monitoring by state and local law enforcement or other agencies. Conditions of a community service programs may include:

  • Education classes
  • Counseling
  • Restitution to victims
  • Daily reporting
  • Community service

2.4. Home Detention Program

Home detention programs in Colorado are also known as house arrest or home confinement. Generally, home detention programs allow individuals to remain home, where they can spend time with their family. Home detention can range from total home confinement to permissible release for limited purposes.5

With most home detention programs, the individual under house arrest may be able to go to and from work, school, doctors appointments, court-ordered counseling sessions, court appointments, or other approved activities. When the individual is not attending a court-approved event, they must generally remain at home.

During home detention, individuals may be restricted with curfew hours and prohibited from drug or alcohol use. Conditions of house arrest may include global positioning system tracking, alcohol tracking, random drug or alcohol tests, and surprise visits from a probation officer or parole officer.

3. Sentencing Nonviolent Offenders

Nonviolent offenders are persons convicted of a felony offense other than a crime of violence, burglary, robbery, or offenses committed against a child. When sentencing nonviolent offenders, the sentencing court will consider a number of factors, including:

  • The nature and character of the offense;
  • The character and record of the nonviolent offender;
  • The offender's employment history;
  • The potential rehabilitative value of the sentencing alternatives;
  • Any potential impact on the safety of the victim, the victim's family, and the general public; and
  • The offender's ability to pay restitution to the victim or the victim's family.6

Upon considering the factors for nonviolent offenders, the court can use any combination of sentences if the court does not grant probation or sentence the offender to the department of corrections. Options include a community corrections program, home detention program, or specialized restitution and community service program.7

4. Sex Offender Sentencing

There are special considerations for sentencing individuals charged with “unlawful sexual behavior.” Unlawful sexual behavior includes a number of sexual offenses, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation of children, and promotion of obscenity to a minor.8

In determining the appropriate sentencing alternative for a defendant who has been convicted of unlawful sexual behavior, the court shall consider the defendant's previous criminal and juvenile delinquency records as provided in the presentence investigation report.9

Defendants convicted of unlawful sexual behavior are generally not eligible for restorative justice practices.10

5. Related Topics

5.1. Deferred Sentencing C.R.S. 18-1.3-102

In Colorado, individuals facing certain criminal offenses may be offered a deferred judgment and sentence. In exchange for pleading guilty, the defendant will have to meet certain conditions during a probationary period. If they complete the terms of their deferred sentence, the case against them will be dismissed.

5.2. Alternative Imposition of Sentence for Drug Felonies C.R.S. 18-1.3-104.5

The law provides alternative imposition of sentences for certain level 4 drug felony cases. During sentencing or resentence after revocation of probation, the court may consider all reasonable and appropriate alternative sentences, including treatment programs or probation.

5.3. Home Detention Programs C.R.S. 18-1.3-106

Some individuals may be able to leave detention during necessary and reasonable hours for seeking employment, working, attending school, or seeking medical treatment. Home detention is an alternative correctional sentence where the defendant remains within their approved residence at all times except for court-approved activities.

5.4. County Jail Alternatives C.R.S. 18-1.3-107

When the defendant entered into alternative sentencing, the court may enter an order of collateral relief which is intended to improve the defendant's likelihood of success, including preserving or improving the defendant's job and employment prospects.

Call us for help...

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you may have alternative options for serving a criminal sentence. If you have any questions about sentencing alternatives, contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. 

Legal References

  1. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104
  2. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104(1)(a)
  3. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104(1)(b)
  4. C.R.S. 18-1.3-302
  5. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104(2)(c)(II)
  6. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104(2)(a)
  7. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104(2)(c)
  8. C.R.S. 16-22-102(9)
  9. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104(3)
  10. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104(1)(b.5)(I)


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