Felony Assault Law in Colorado

In Colorado, felony assault is any assault crime that can be charged as a felony, rather than a misdemeanor. These assaults involve intentionally hurting someone else. Felony assaults are the most severe types of assaults. They often include the use of a deadly weapon. Types of felony assaults include:


  • Kyle is driving while drunk. He causes an accident that hurts Pamela.
  • Hank gets in an argument with Mark. Hank pulls out his pistol and shoots Mark in the hand.

Legal defenses

People who have been charged with felony assault often use the following legal defenses:

  • You acted in the heat of passion,
  • You only committed the assault for self-defense or to defend someone else, and
  • You did not intend to hurt someone.


A conviction for felony assault carries serious penalties. The most severe type of felony assault is first-degree assault. It is a Class 3 felony. Convictions for this type of crime carry at least:

  • 4 years in jail, and
  • $3,000 in fines.

Even the least severe type of felony assault carries high penalties. Convictions for Class 5 felonies like vehicular assault come with at least:

  • 1 year in jail, and
  • $1,000 in fines.

In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys will explain:

felony assault in colorado

1. What is a felony assault?

A felony assault is an assault crime that is severe enough to be charged as a felony.

Assaults are often divided into 3 degrees:

  1. First-degree assault,
  2. Second-degree assault, and
  3. Third-degree assault (CRS 18-3-204).

However, assault crimes can also be divided into 2 levels:

  1. Misdemeanor assaults, and
  2. Felony assaults.

This alternative way of defining assault crimes separates severe offenses from less-severe ones. It also avoids talking about the degrees of assault, which can be nuanced and confusing. It also includes vehicular assault in the discussion.

1.1. What is an assault?

An assault is the crime of intentionally or recklessly hurting someone.

The circumstances of an assault case can influence the severity of the offense. The following factors make an assault more severe:

  • The assault caused a serious injury,
  • A deadly weapon was used during the offense, and
  • The assault was intentional.

1.2. What is a felony?

Assaults that are especially severe are treated as felonies.

In Colorado, a felony is a crime that can be punished by more than a year in jail.

A felony is contrasted with a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that cannot carry more than a year in jail.

1.3. Types of felony assault in Colorado

There are 4 types of felony assault in Colorado:

  • First-degree assault. This offense involves causing a serious injury with a deadly weapon.
  • Second-degree assault. This offense involves intentionally causing a serious injury, without a deadly weapon. It can also be committed by recklessly causing a serious injury with a deadly weapon, like a car.
  • Vehicular assault. This offense involves causing a serious injury to someone else while driving recklessly. It is often considered to be a particular application of second-degree assault.
  • Vehicular assault while under the influence. This is a sentencing enhancement to vehicular assault. The penalty of a conviction for vehicular assault gets worse if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A conviction for any of these charges can carry over a year in jail. This makes them felony-level offenses.

attorney speaking with judge

2. Legal defenses to a charge of felony assault

If you have been accused of felony assault in Colorado, there are several legal defenses you can raise. If successful, these defenses can reduce the penalties of a conviction. They can also be a complete defense – one that leads to an acquittal.

Some of the most common defenses are:

  • The assault was committed in the heat of passion,
  • You were acting in self-defense or were trying to defend someone else from harm, and
  • You did not intend to hurt someone else.

2.1. You were in the heat of passion

If you can prove that you only assaulted someone else because you were in the heat of passion, it reduces the severity of the crime. The penalties of a conviction get reduced, as a result.

The heat of passion defense can succeed if you can show that:

  • The victim provoked you into assaulting them,
  • A reasonable person would have been provoked in the situation, and
  • There was no time for you to cool off.

If successful, the heat of passion defense reduces the severity of a felony assault crime by 2 classes. For example, it turns a first-degree assault conviction from a Class 3 felony into a Class 5 felony.

2.2. Self-defense or the defense of someone else

A common legal defense to a felony assault charge is self-defense. This includes the defense of others.

To show self-defense, you have to prove that:

  • You reasonably believed the other person was about to use unlawful force against you, and
  • You reasonably believed you were using only as much force as was necessary to protect yourself.

2.3. Lack of intent

Felony assault accusations require you to act with a culpable state of mind. This often means you were behaving intentionally or recklessly. If you can show that the injury was just an accident, it can be a successful defense to a felony assault charge.

3. Penalties for a felony assault conviction

By definition, all felony assault convictions come with at least a year in jail. This is just the minimum, though. A conviction for first-degree assault – the most serious type of felony assault in Colorado – carries up to:

  • 12 years in jail, and
  • $750,000 in fines.

There are also numerous collateral consequences of a felony conviction. These hidden penalties are often forgotten or overlooked. They include:

  • Restrictions on your right to own or possess a firearm,
  • Strict probation terms,
  • Difficulties getting a job or keeping the one you have, and
  • Voting restrictions.

4. Crimes related to felony assault

Several criminal offenses in Colorado are similar to felony assault. They include:

Call us for help…

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Call us for help at (303) 222-0330

Felony assault charges are serious. A criminal defense lawyer can help you fight the allegation. They can help you prove your innocence. Contact our criminal defense attorneys today to get started on your case.

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