Death Penalty in Colorado


Colorado is no longer a death penalty state. On February 26, 2020, the Colorado Legislature voted 38-27 to pass SB20.100. This repeals capital punishment for offenses charged on or after July 1, 2020. Governor Jared Polis has said he will sign the bill into law.

Below our Colorado criminal defense lawyers explain:

1. Does Colorado have the death penalty?

gavel and needle
Colorado is no longer a death penalty state.

No, not for crimes charged on or after July 1, 2020. Colorado Senate Bill 20-100 repealed capital punishment.

Colorado did have the death penalty prior to this senate bill. The most recent method was by lethal injection.

Statistically, the death penalty has not been applied to all individuals equally. Poor and minority individuals had a higher chance of being sentenced to death.

2. What crimes were punishable by death in Colorado?

Capital offense charges in Colorado were limited to class 1 felonies.  These included:

Starting July 1, 2020, the only possible sentence for these crimes is life in prison. (There is no mandatory parole for class 1 felonies.)

3. Did all class 1 felony convicts get sentenced to death?

No. Under CRS 18-1.3-1201, courts could impose death or life in prison.

During sentencing hearings, the court heard evidence for and against the death penalty. "Aggravating evidence" weighed in favor of the death penalty. "Mitigating evidence" weighed in favor of life in prison.

10 examples of aggravating factors

  1. Prior convictions of a class 1 or 2 felony crime of violence
  2. Defendant was under sentence of imprisonment for a class 1, 2, or 3 felony
  3. Victim was a peace officer or firefighter
  4. Victim was a judge or federal enforcement agent
  5. Victim was pregnant
  6. Victim was a child under the age of 12
  7. Defendant killed a person they kidnapped or held hostage
  8. Use of an explosive or chemical weapon
  9. Defendant was trying to avoid arrest or prosecution
  10. Financial gain was a motivation

10 examples of mitigating factors

  1. Youth
  2. Mental incompetence
  3. Being under unusual or substantial duress
  4. Participation in the crime was relatively minor
  5. Lack of criminal history
  6. Cooperation with law enforcement
  7. Influence of drugs or alcohol
  8. Lack of threat to society
  9. Good faith belief that there was a moral justification
  10. Defendant was a model prisoner

A jury had to unanimously agree in order to impose death. If the defendant waived the right to a jury trial, the judge could decide the sentence.

People sentenced to death could appeal. This process often took years. And many people remained on death row for more than a decade.

4. What will happen to current death row inmates?

There are currently three people on death row. They live at the Colorado State Penitentiary near Cañon City. It is possible that the Governor may grant them clemency now that Colorado has repealed the death penalty.

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Call our Denver criminal defense attorneys. 303-222-0330. We offer free consultations.

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Arrested in Colorado? Contact our Denver criminal defense attorneys. We may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed.

Call us at 303-222-0330. Or fill out the form on this page. Consultations are free.

In California? Read our article about capital punishment in California.

In Nevada? Read our article on capital punishment in Nevada.

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