In Colorado, juvenile crimes involve individuals between the ages of 10 and 18. Juvenile offenses and juvenile court cases are handled differently than adult criminal cases. However, the penalties for juvenile offenses can include fines, probation, commitment to a juvenile detention facility, and in some cases, jail. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. Juvenile Offenses Under the Colorado Children's Code
- 2. Types of Juvenile Offenses in Colorado
- 3. Penalties for Juvenile Offenses in Colorado
- 4. Categorizations of Juvenile Offenders in Colorado
Under the Colorado Children's Code, “the juvenile justice system shall take into consideration the best interests of the juvenile, the victim, and the community in providing appropriate treatment to reduce the rate of recidivism in the juvenile justice system and to assist the juvenile in becoming a productive member of society.”1
Instead of strictly punishing a child for their misconduct, the Colorado Children's Code guidelines are implemented to fulfill goals for each child. The actions taken to accomplish these goals are intended to assist children in avoiding future run-ins with law enforcement, cast a light on their lack of supervision, or improve their environment.
A judge's sentence regarding a juvenile offense is supposed to reflect the following state objectives:
- Secure for each child to these provisions such care and guidance, preferably in his or her own home, as will best serve his or her welfare and the interests of society;
- Preserve and strengthen family ties whenever possible, including improvement of the home environment;
- Remove a child from the custody of his or her parents only when his or her welfare and safety or the protection of the public would otherwise be endangered, and provide a legal determination that will serve the best interests of the child; and
- Secure for any child removed from the custody of his or her parents the necessary care, guidance, and discipline to assist him in becoming a responsible and productive member of society 2
The age of a young person may have an effect on whether they are treated as a juvenile or as an adult. Under Colorado law, a “minor” is a person who has not yet reached the age of 21.3 However, an individual is treated as an adult, for most purposes, when they reach the age of 18.
The Juvenile Court in Colorado has exclusive jurisdiction in proceedings involving a juvenile age 10 or older who have violated state or federal law, county or municipal ordinance, and any juvenile court order.
Certain offenses may fall under the jurisdiction of the county court, even if the individual is under the age of 18. This includes:
- Minor in Possession C.R.S. 18-13-122
- Possession of Marijuana C.R.S. 18-18-406(5)
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia C.R.S. 18-18-428
- Sale or advertisement of drug paraphernalia C.R.S. 18-18-429 and C.R.S. 18-18-30
- Driving under the influence C.R.S. 42-4-1301
There are certain types of misconduct that only a minor can commit in order for the action to be constituted as an offense. These are actions that an adult or those over a certain age can do legally. However, if the individual is underage, they may be charged with a juvenile offense. This includes:
- Curfew Violations
- Underage Possession of Tobacco, Alcohol, or Marijuana
Truancy is also referred to as the compulsory school attendance law. When a misses an excessive number of school days, ditches school, or drops out before the legal age, they may be violating Colorado's truancy laws. In Colorado, children between the ages of 6 (starting on August 1 of each year) and 16 are required to attend school. 4
There are some exceptions to these attendance requirements. The compulsory attendance law does not apply to children when:
- They are absent due to physical, mental, or emotional disabilities
- They are being homeschooled
- They are temporarily ill or injured
- They are participating in a qualified online education program
- They already graduated from the 12th grade
- They are under lawful custody in juvenile detention or jail (where education is being provided) 5
Colorado penalties for truancy vary on a case-by-case basis. The decisions involve the district school board based on the specific child's issue with school attendance.
There are no Colorado statutes that directly reference curfew laws, but many cities and counties in Colorado have their own curfew regulations for minors.
In Colorado Springs, is it unlawful for minors to loiter or drive around on a public or private roadway, or abide any other public area between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday. On weekends, Fridays and Saturdays, the curfew hours are midnight to 6 a.m.
In Jefferson County, under County Policy 3.6.1, minors under 18 years of age have an 11 p.m. curfew Sunday through Thursday, and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Possession of alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco by a minor is known as “minor in possession.” Under Colorado law, it is illegal for minors to possess or consume alcohol, marijuana or tobacco.6 The legal age to possess or use tobacco is 18-years-old. The legal age to possess or use marijuana or alcohol is 21-years-old.
The penalties for minors may be focused on the betterment of the child. Colorado often provides a rehabilitative approach to minor in possession charges instead of detainment. The possible repercussions for the violation of this law include:
- A fine ranging from $100-$250
- Attendance at a substance abuse education program
- Public service
- Driver's license restrictions
Read more about the purchase of tobacco by a minor in Colorado.
When a crime is taken to juvenile court, a judge has several potential options for sentencing minors that have been adjudicated for any crime. This includes:
- Placement with another suitable relative
- Department of youth corrections (for up to 7 years) 7
- Probation (for up to 2 years) / 45 days in detention 8
- A fine
- Placement with the Department of Human Services
- Placement in a hospital
- Restitution to the victim
Juveniles who commit crimes are classified at different levels. These classifications determine how a minor will be sentenced, procedural factors, and a juvenile's eligibility for the expungement of his or her juvenile record. Some juveniles fall in classifications that may receive very harsh penalties. In some cases, a minor may fall in more than one category.
According to Colorado law, a minor must be sentenced if he or she has been adjudicated a juvenile delinquent two times or if his or her probation has been revoked. 9
Any juvenile that has been found guilty of violating a law that constitutes a felony, or has had his or her probation revoked due to the violation of a felony more than once is considered a repeat juvenile offender. 10
A minor who has been adjudicated for a delinquent act that constitutes a crime of violence is deemed a violent juvenile offender in the eyes of the law.
A violent crime is a violation of the law committed, conspired to be committed, or attempted to be committed by a person that:
- Used, or possessed and threatened the use of a deadly weapon
- Caused bodily injury or death to any other person except another participant
- Murder (in any degree)
- First or second-degree assault
- Any sexual offense
- Aggravated robbery
- First-degree arson
- First-degree burglary
- Criminal extortion
- First or second-degree unlawful termination of pregnancy 11
A minor is deemed an aggravated juvenile offender if he or she is adjudicated for a delinquent act that constitutes as a class 1 or class 2 felony, or if his or her probation is revoked for an act that constitutes as a class 1 or class 2 felony. A minor also falls under this category if he or she commits a violent crime (listed above).
In some cases, juveniles may be tried as adults. Under Colorado law, a child must only be 16 years old or older to be tried as an adult. Certain criminal offenses allow the juvenile court to transfer a minor's file to the district court. If a juvenile is tried and convicted of a crime in district court, they could receive the same sentence as an adult.
There are several factors that influence the decision to transfer, prosecute, or sentence a juvenile as an adult. These include:
- The age of the child
- The type of crime committed
- A child's recidivism rate/history of delinquency
- A district attorney's approval to transfer the juvenile court file to a district court
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- C.R.S. 19-2-102(1)
- C.R.S. 19-1-102(1)
- C.R.S. 2-4-401(6)
- C.R.S. 22-33-104(1)(a)
- C.R.S. 22-33-104(2)
- C.R.S. 18-13-122
- C.R.S. 19-2-921
- C.R.S. 19-2-925
- C.R.S. 19-2-516(1)(a)
- C.R.S. 19-2-516(2)
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-406(2)