What is the Difference Between 1st and 2nd Degree Assault in Colorado


An assault charge is a serious legal matter in Colorado. The state defines assault as any unlawful contact resulting in an injury to another party. Despite the violent nature of assault crimes, they are not all the same and may result from a number of different circumstances. While 3rd-degree assault is a class-1 misdemeanor, because the law considers it a high-risk crime, an offender could be sentenced to up to 2 years in jail. The penalties for 1st and 2nd-degree assault only increase in severity.

Despite the serious nature of assault charges, there are a number of significant legal defense arguments against assault charges, but first, you have to navigate the state’s complex legal system for assault charges, including understanding the difference between 1st and 2nd-degree assault in Colorado. 

What is 2nd Degree Assault in Colorado?

Colorado courts consider 2nd-degree assault a crime of violence with stiff penalties. This Class-4 felony crime is punishable in the state by 5 to 16 years in prison if the state proves an intention to cause bodily harm. The state defines a 2nd-degree assault as one in which the defendant intended to cause injury to another in any of the following ways:

  • Intentionally causing the person’s injury with a deadly weapon
  • Recklessly causing the injury with a deadly weapon
  • Intentionally causing a physical or mental impairment to another person, such as through un-consensually drugging them or knocking them out
  • Causing a serious injury while trying to cause a less serious injury to a person
  • Intentionally causing injury by strangling or suffocating a person
  • Intentionally hurting another by trying to prevent an emergency responder or police officer from doing their job
  • Using bodily fluids to intentionally attempt to infect a police officer, prison worker, or first responder

The state specifies a difference between bodily injury and serious bodily injury. While injury can mean causing pain or physical or mental impairment, serious bodily injury means an injury that risks causing death.

What is 1st Degree Assault in Colorado?

A 1st-degree assault charge in Colorado is a very serious felony charge. Since it’s considered a crime of violence, a conviction carries an enhanced prison sentence. The crime of 1st-degree assault is one in which one of the following occurs:

  • Causing serious bodily harm while acting with intent to cause serious injury
  • Seriously disfiguring a victim or causing an amputation with the intent to do so
  • Showing extreme disregard for human life while knowingly acting in a way that puts another person at grave risk of death and causing serious bodily injury to that person while doing so
  • Using a deadly weapon to threaten a police officer, judge, prison worker, or firefighter with intent to cause serious bodily harm

A 1st-degree assault charge is a class-s felony with 10-32 years in prison upon conviction and a $2,000 to $500,000 fine.

Defense Against 1st and 2nd Degree Assault Charges in Colorado

Despite the stiff criminal penalties, there are valid defense strategies against 1st and 2nd-degree assault charges including self-defense, false accusations, and cases where the incident was accidental with no intention to cause bodily harm.

Everyone is entitled to a strong defense. A Colorado defense attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations under the law.