Colorado "Elder Abuse" Laws
(18-6.5-103 C.R.S.)

7 acts that can get you busted for “elder abuse” in Colorado

Top Denver criminal defense attorney discusses elder abuse offenses in Colorado.

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Colorado has no specific crime of elder abuse. Instead, state law bands together seven basic crimes of neglect and violence against “at-risk” elders aged 70 and older:

  1. Criminal negligence -- 18-6.5-103(2), C.R.S.
  2. Assault -- 18-6.5-103(3), C.R.S.
  3. Robbery -- 18-6.5-103(4), C.R.S.
  4. Theft -- 18-6.5-103(5), C.R.S.
  5. Caretaker neglect -- 18-6.5-103(6), C.R.S.
  6. Sexual assault -- 18-6.5-103(7), C.R.S. and
  7. Exploitation -- 18-6.5-103(7.5) C.R.S.11

It is also a crime to attempt to do, or to conspire to do, or solicit someone else to do, any of the foregoing.2

Colorado considers people age 70 and older to be especially vulnerable to crime and neglect. As a result, penalties for crimes against "at risk" seniors are usually felonies and are punished more severely than equivalent crimes against younger adults. Merely taking anything worth more than $500 from a senior can land you in prison for many years.

To help you better understand Colorado 18-6.5-103, C.R.S. crimes against the elderly, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below: 

1. Definitions

1.1. Abuse

18-6.5-102(1), C.R.S. defines “abuse” as any of the following acts or omissions committed against an at-risk elder:

  • (a) The non-accidental infliction of bodily injury, serious bodily injury, or death;
  • (b) Confinement or restraint that is unreasonable under generally accepted caretaking standards;
  • (c) Sexual assault or unlawful sexual contact;
  • (d) Caretaker neglect; or
  • (e) Exploitation.

1.2. "At-risk" elder

For purposes of Colorado's elder abuse laws, “at-risk elder” means any person who is seventy years of age or older.

1.3. Caretaker

Under 18-6.5-102 (5), C.R.S., "caretaker” means a person who:

  • (a) Is responsible for the care of an at-risk elder as a result of a family or legal relationship;
  • (b) Has assumed responsibility for the care of an at-risk elder; or
  • (c) Is paid to provide care or services to an at-risk elder.

1.4. Caretaker neglect

18-6.5-102 (6), C.R.S. defines "caretaker neglect” as neglect that occurs when a caretaker does not provide, in a timely manner and with the degree of care that a reasonable person in the same situation would exercise, adequate: 

  • food,
  • clothing,
  • shelter,
  • psychological care,
  • physical care,
  • medical care, or
  • supervision. 

An exception is made for care that is withheld in accordance with:

  • a valid medical directive or order (such as a medical durable power of attorney), or 
  • a palliative plan of care.

1.5. Criminal exploitation

Under 18-6.5-102 (10) of Colorado's elder abuse statute, "exploitation” means an act or omission committed by a person who:

  • (a) Without legal authority uses deception, harassment, intimidation, or undue influence to permanently or temporarily deprive an at-risk elder of the use, benefit, or possession of anything of value;
  • (b) Employs the services of a third party for his or her profit or advantage to the detriment of the at-risk elder;
  • (c) Forces, compels, coerces, or entices an at-risk elder to perform services for the profit or advantage of the person or another person against the will of the at-risk elder; or
  • (d) Misuses the property of an at-risk elder in a manner that adversely affects the at-risk elder's ability to receive health care or health care benefits or to pay bills for basic needs or obligations.

2. Penalties for elder abuse in Colorado

Section 18-6.5-103(2) sets forth the consequences of crimes against the elderly in Colorado. The penalties for Colorado elder abuse vary depending on:

  • the nature of the underlying crime,
  • whether the crime was committed in the heat of sudden passion,
  • whether the wrongful act was committed knowingly,
  • whether the crime was committed by someone in a position of trust, and
  • in the case of theft, robbery or exploitation, the value of the item.

2.1. Negligence resulting in death or injury

When negligence results in the death of an elderly person in Colorado, the penalty is:

  • 2-6 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

When the elder neglect results in serious bodily injury, consequences include:

  • 1-3 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

And when negligence results in (non-serious) bodily injury to an at-risk adult, penalties are:

  • 1 – 1 ½ years in prison, and
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

2.2. Assault of an elder

2.2.1. First-degree assault

Penalties for assault in the first degree against a Colorado "at-risk" elder include:

  • 8-24 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $5,000-$1,000,000;

Except that if the assault is committed in a sudden heat of passion, the penalty is reduced to:

  • 2-6 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

2.2.2. Second-degree assault

Punishment for assault in the second degree against an at-risk elder is:

  • 4-12 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000.

Except if the assault is committed in a sudden heat of passion, consequences of elder assault are reduced to:

  • 1-3 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

2.2.3. Third-degree assault

Penalties for assault in the third degree against a Colorado senior include:

  • 1 – 1 ½ years in prison, and
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

2.3. Robbery

Robbing an elderly person in Colorado is considered a particularly serious crime. Penalties include:

  • 4-12 years in prison (with 4 years mandatory followed by 5 years mandatory parole), and
  • A fine of up to $ 500,000.

2.4. Theft

If you are in a position of trust in relation to an at-risk elder in Colorado (see above), penalties for stealing from an elder depend on:

  • the value of the item stolen,
  • whether the theft was committed in the elder's presence, and
  • whether you used force, threat or intimidation.

If the theft was committed in the elder's presence, or you used force, threat or intimidation, then the consequences of Colorado theft of an elder include:

If the item was worth $500 or more:

  • 4-12 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000.

If the value was less than $500, the penalty is:

  • 1-3 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

If the theft was committed other than by force, threat or intimidation (for example, by fraud or embezzlement), then regardless of the value of the item, the theft can be punished by:

  • 2-6 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

2.5. Caretaker Neglect

It is a Colorado class 1 misdemeanor to: 

  • knowingly commit caretaker neglect against an at-risk elder, or
  • knowingly act in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical or mental welfare of an at-risk elder.3 

Penalties for knowing caretaker neglect of an elder can include:

  • 6 - 18 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $500-$5,000.

2.6. Sex Crimes

Sexual assault against an elder in Colorado is punished by:

  • 8-24 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $5,000-$1,000,000.

Unlawful sexual contact by force, intimidation, or threat carries penalties of:

  • 4-12 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000.

Any other type of unlawful sexual contact with an elder carries consequences of:

  • 1 – 1 ½ years in prison, and
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

2.7. Exploitation

Penalties for exploiting an elder in Colorado depend on the value of the property exploited or the advantage taken. If the value is $500 or more, the penalty for Colorado exploitation of a senior is:

  • 4-12 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000.

If the value is less than $500, consequences of elder exploitation include:

  • 1-3 years in prison, and
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

3. Defenses to Colorado elder abuse

Defenses to elder abuse usually involve defenses to the specific crime charged (assault, sexual assault, etc).

Additional defenses specific to elder abuse often include (but are not limited to):

  • The adult wasn't 70 or more at the time of the alleged act,
  • You weren't a caretaker under Colorado law,
  • The injury was the result of an accident,
  • You were acting in accordance with the elder's wishes,
  • You were acting consistently with prescribed medical care,
  • You didn't knowingly commit the alleged act,
  • You acted in self-defense,
  • The item was valued at less than $500 (partial defense), or
  • You acted in the heat of passion (partial defense).

See our related articles on domestic violence assault in Colorado, child abuse, menacing, stalking, and false imprisonment.

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Colorado law provides serious felony penalties for those who abuse or take advantage of people aged 70 or more.

Our Colorado domestic violence lawyers know, however, that older adults sometimes misunderstand things -- or even forget them.

If you have been charged with elder negligence or abuse under 18-6.5-103, C.R.S., we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We will investigate ALL the facts and present your side of the story.

You can reach one of our experienced Colorado criminal defense attorneys by filling out the form on this page. Or feel free to call us anytime at our convenient Denver home office. Our attorneys also assist with bail and release issues at jails across Colorado, including the Clear Creek County Jail.

Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver CO 80211
(303) 222-0330

Legal references:

  1. 18-6.5-102 (3), C.R.S.
  2. 18-6.5-103 (8), C.R.S.
  3. 18-6.5-103 (6), C.R.S.



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