Alternative Imposition of Sentence in Drug Felonies in Colorado
CRS 18-1.3-104.5

In Colorado, the court should exhaust all reasonable alternative sentences before sentencing someone to prison for a level 4 drug felony. Sentencing alternatives for drug felonies include probation and community corrections. A goal of sentencing alternatives for drug felonies is the rehabilitation for the offender. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

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In Colorado, the court should exhaust all reasonable alternative sentences before sentencing someone to prison for a level 4 drug felony. Sentencing alternatives for drug felonies include probation and community corrections.

1. What are sentencing alternatives for drug felonies?

There are a number of alternatives to incarceration available after an individual is found guilty of certain drug felonies. Alternatives to incarceration include probation, community service programs, and home detention programs. Colorado law specifically requires the courts to “exhaust all reasonable and appropriate alternative sentences” considering relevant factors for individuals convicted of level 4 drug felony offenses at sentencing or resentencing.1.

2. Did the court exhaust all remedies before jail?

Before the court can sentence a defendant to incarceration for a level 4 drug felony offense, it must determine that incarceration is the most suitable option given the facts and circumstances of the case. Considerations include the defendant's willingness to participate in treatment.

The court must also determine that “all other reasonable and appropriate sanctions and responses to the violation that is available to the court have been tried and failed, do not appear likely to be successful if tried, or present an unacceptable risk to public safety.”2

In making a determination that all other remedies have been tried or would not succeed, the court should review all information provided by the supervising agency, including a complete statement as to:

  • What treatment and sentencing options have been tried;
  • The success or failure of the treatment and sentencing options;
  • What other community options are available;
  • The reasons why any other available community options appear to be unlikely to be successful;
  • The risk level of the offender as determined by an evidence-based risk assessment tool; and
  • Any other information relevant to the defendant's risk to public safety.3

There are a number of reasons why the courts should try all other reasonable alternatives before imprisonment. Felony drug charges are often related to problems with addiction and substance abuse. Alternative treatment options could be more effective in rehabilitation than sending someone to jail.

Colorado also has an interest in limiting the state's costly prison resources to those offenders for whom an alternative sentence is not appropriate or will not properly meet the goals of community safety and rehabilitation of the offender.4

3. Community Corrections

Community corrections are an alternative to incarceration that provides housing and treatment while allowing the individual to remain part of the community. Residential programs are also known as “halfway houses.” These are locations where individuals can live and receive drug and alcohol treatment or other counseling. They may still be able to work or find a job, go to school, and stay connected with family and the community.

Non-residential programs allow individuals to live on their own or with family, subject to monitoring and conditions of their release. This may include counseling, drug testing, GPS or alcohol monitoring, subject to random searches, and reporting requirements.

4. Probation

Probation is one of the most common alternatives to incarceration. A defendant may be granted probation unless any provision of state 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.”5

Probation provides a way for a defendant to serve their sentence outside of a correctional institution or community corrections facility. They may be able to return home and return to their family, job, and 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 testing device
  • GPS tracking device
  • Curfew
  • Mandatory counseling
  • Drug or alcohol education
  • Avoiding contact with certain individuals
  • Payment of supervision fees
  • Maintain employment
  • Weapons restrictions

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

5. Related Topics

5.1. Alternatives in Imposition of Sentence CRS 18-1.3-104

In Colorado, the trial court has a number of alternatives in entering judgment for a criminal sentence, including probation, specialized restitution, community service programs, and imprisonment. Sentencing alternatives depend on the specific crime, the defendant's history, and potential impact on the safety of the victims.

5.2. 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.

5.3. 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.

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If you have been charged with a felony drug offense, you may have alternative options for serving a criminal sentence.

  1. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104.5(2)(a)
  2. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104.5(2)(b)
  3. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104.5(2)(c)
  4. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104.5(1)
  5. C.R.S. 18-1.3-104(1)(a)


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