Felony probation in Colorado is an alternative to jail or prison. A person can be eligible to apply for probation rather than incarceration after a conviction or guilty plea to a criminal offense.
Eligibility for Felony Probation
Most offenders are eligible to apply for probation, except those people:
- convicted of a class 1 felony;
- convicted of a class 2 petty offense;
- convicted of two or more felonies in Colorado or any other state.
Felony Probation Conditions
Felony probation conditions are determined by the sentencing judge and are at his or her discretion. The conditions can cover a wide range of things a person must or cannot do.
Failure to follow these strict guidelines can result in a violation, which could lead to revocation of the probation.
Below, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about felony probation for Colorado residents:
- 1. Who is eligible for felony probation in Colorado?
- 2. What are common conditions of my felony probation?
- 3. What happens if I violate the conditions of my felony probation?
- 3.1 Will I get a jury at my violation hearing?
- 3.2 What is the standard of proof in a violation hearing?
- 4. Do I have to report to a probation officer in Colorado?
- 5. Can I request early termination of my felony probation?
- 5.1 How do I request early termination in Colorado?
- 5.2 What reasons can I use to justify early release?
- 6. Am I required to pay the costs of felony probation?
A person can apply for probation after a person is convicted of or pleads guilty to a felony.
A felon is not eligible for probation if:
- He or she has two or more prior felony convictions arising out of separate and distinct criminal episodes under the laws of Colorado, any other state, or the United States; and
- His or her current conviction or a prior conviction is for:
- First- or second-degree murder;
- First- or second-degree assault;
- First- or second-degree kidnapping;
- Sexual assault or sexual contact;
- First-degree arson;
- First- or second-degree burglary;
- Aggravated robbery;
- Theft from the person of another;
- Any felony offense committed against a child; or
- Any criminal attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the offenses set forth above.1
This means a person can still be eligible if convicted of a:
Conditions depend on the judge's choices and usually on the facts of the individual case.
Common conditions include but are not limited to:
- regular reporting to the probation officer;
- not committing any other crimes;
- restitution payments to any victims;
- regular drug and alcohol testing;
- electronic monitoring (ankle bracelet);
- not leaving the county, state, or other territorial limitation;
- no use of non-prescription drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol, or medical marijuana;
- no ownership or possession of firearms or other weapons;
- attendance at and completion of drug counseling, anger management, or other classes; or
- following the terms of a protective order.2
Overall, the conditions of probation are whatever the court in its discretion deems reasonably necessary.
Other conditions which could be imposed include:
- maintaining regular employment;
- attending school, college, or vocational training;
- paying costs of court proceedings;
- allowing the probation officer to search the defendant's car, home, or other places;
- providing financial support for the probationer's family;
- quickly notifying the court of changes in the probationer's address or other information change; and
- abiding by a curfew imposed by the court.
A Colorado judge can set the length of probation as long as he or she believes is necessary to punish and rehabilitate the defendant. Unlike with misdemeanor or petty offenses, felony probation is not limited to 5 years.
Instead, the period of time can be so long as the judge decides is necessary. The term of probation can even be longer than the term of any incarceration imposed.
Example: Sally is convicted of a class 4 felony. She applies for and is granted a probation request. She is sentenced to 2 years in prison and 4 years of probation. Even though her probation sentence is longer than her prison sentence, Colorado law allows this to happen.
If a person violates the terms of the probation, he or she:
- could be arrested
- on a "no bond" warrant and
- taken into police custody.
The prosecutor can also file a "Motion to Revoke Probation" for violating the terms of felony probation. A hearing will be held to determine whether the person actually violated the conditions. At that hearing, evidence will be presented about the alleged violations.4
After the judge hears the case, he or she can:
- find that the probationer did not violate the conditions of felony probation;
- revoke the probation and send the offender to jail or prison on the remaining sentence; or
- the judge can continue the probation but change the terms or add additional terms and restrictions.
The potential jail time for a felony probation violation is the amount of custody time remaining on the suspended sentence, or the maximum term for the conviction offense.
No. Unlike the criminal case that led to the probation where a jury is guaranteed by the Constitution, probation violation hearings are not eligible for jury trials.
The judge will listen to the evidence and make decisions based upon it, not a jury.5
The standard of proof in a violation hearing is not as high as the actual criminal charges, which must be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt."6
Instead, violation hearings are subject to a lesser standard of proof, a "preponderance of the evidence" standard. If the judge is convinced that the person committed the violations more than he or she is convinced that the violations were not committed, this is enough.
A probation officer is an employee of the government who:
- supervises the defendant;
- meets with the defendant; and
- makes recommendations to the judge concerning probation.
Regular reporting to the officer is almost always a condition set by the judge.
Failure to meet with the probation officer at scheduled times can result in a violation of the terms of the supervision. It is incredibly important not to be late to or miss scheduled appointments.
Failure to report to your probation officer will almost certainly result in a violation of your felony probation. This is very serious and will likely lead to additional penalties.
Regular attendance is a key part of keeping out of prison.
A defendant may apply for early termination of felony probation after certain conditions are met.
A person can be released early if:
- good cause is shown; and
- after notice to the defendant, the district attorney, and the probation officer.7
A hearing will likely be held to determine:
- if the defendant has met all of the conditions; and
- whether the court believes it is appropriate to allow for early release of the felon.
To receive early termination from felony probation, a defendant must file an appropriate motion.8 The motion must include:
- the defendant's name;
- the case number;
- the defendant's attorney;
- the defendant's sentencing date; and
- the defendant's expected termination date of probation.
Each court has its own form, so you should contact your attorney to make sure the right form is used.
The felony probationer must list a reason or reasons to justify early termination of probation. Any of the following may be reasons to terminate early:
- the defendant has not re-offended or had any contact with law enforcement since sentencing;
- the defendant has completed all conditions of probation (i.e. community service hours, classes, treatment);
- the defendant has been compliant with monitored sobriety with no missed or positive tests;
- the defendant has paid all fines, fees, court costs, and restitution;
- his or her probation officer has no objection to early termination; or
- for another reason which the defendant may provide.9
If the defendant wishes to give another reason, he or she must describe that reason with specificity.
Probationers are required to accept and pay the costs of their probation supervision as a condition of that supervision.
These costs can add up, especially when a person is on electronic monitoring or is engaged in addiction classes. Failure to pay can be considered a violation in some cases.
However, if a person is struggling financially to meet his or her obligations, courts are typically willing to work with him or her, so long as there is a good faith effort to pay on time.
Call us for help...
For questions about felony probation or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.
We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.
- CRS 18-1.3-201 (Application for probation).
- CRS 18-1.3-204 (Conditions of probation--interstate compact probation transfer cash fund--creation).
- CRS 18-1.3-202 (Probationary power of court).
- CRS 16-11-206 (Revocation Hearing).
- CRS 16-11-206(1).
- Colorado Model Jury Instructions - Criminal (2017) E:03 Presumption of Innocence, burden of proof, and reasonable doubt.
- CRS 18-1.3-204(4)(a). (Conditions of probation--interstate compact probation transfer cash fund--creation).
- Motion for Early Termination of Probation. Colorado Judicial Department. (Sample form from Jefferson County).
- Same as 7.