Felony sexual assault crimes are very serious charges. Often, it doesn’t even take that much evidence to successfully accuse someone of a sexual offense. It is as simple as pointing a finger and saying he/she did it. There doesn’t need to be physical evidence, DNA evidence, or even a witness testimonial for victims of sexual assault. You can deny all you want, but until you give law enforcement the answer they want, or even if you never give them the answer they want, the criminal charge alone is enough to make a substantial impact on your life.
Let’s go over felony sexual assault, what the prosecution will try and prove if you ever end up in a trial, and what the impact is if you are convicted.
Defining Sexual Assault
What is considered “sexual assault” in Colorado? Here’s how C.R.S (Colorado Revised Statutes) Section 18-3-402 (2020) defines it:
- Any actor who knowingly inflicts sexual intrusion or sexual penetration on a victim commits sexual assault if:
- The actor causes submission of the victim by means of sufficient consequence reasonably calculated to cause submission against the victim’s will; or
- The actor knows that the victim is incapable of appraising the nature of the victim’s conduct;
- The actor knows that the victim submits erroneously, believing the actor to be the victim’s spouse;
- At the time of the commission of the act, the victim is less than fifteen years of age and the actor is at least four years older than the victim and is not the spouse of the victim; or
- At the time of the commission of the act, the victim is at least fifteen years of age but less than seventeen years of age, and the actor is at least ten years older than the victim and is not the spouse of the victim; or
- The victim is in the custody of law or detained in a hospital or other institution and the actor has supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim and uses this position of authority to coerce the victim to submit unless the act is incident to lawful search; or
- The actor, while purporting to offer a medical service, engages in treatment or examination of a victim for other than a bona fide medical purpose or in a manner substantially inconsistent with reasonable medical practices; or
- The victim is physically helpless and the actor knows the victim is physically helpless and the victim has not consented.
- Sexual assault is a class 4 felony, except in certain situations provided under (3), (3.5), (4), and (5) of this section.
- If committed under the circumstance of paragraph (e) (if the victim is less than fifteen years of age and the actor is at least four years older), sexual assault is class 1 misdemeanor and is an extraordinary risk crime that is subject to the modified sentencing range specified in 18-1.3-501.
Class 4 Felony
Sexual assault is a class 4 felony if any one or more of the following circumstances exist:
- Sexual penetration without consent: Sexual penetration without the other person’s consent, or where the person is physically helpless, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or where the person is mentally incapacitated.
- Sexual penetration with a child under 15 years of age: Sexual penetration with a child under the age of 15, even if the child gives consent.
- Sexual penetration with a person who is in custody: Sexual penetration with a person who is in custody, such as an inmate or detainee, by a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or other person in a position of authority.
- Sexual penetration with a person who is mentally incapacitated: Sexual penetration with a person who is mentally incapacitated, and therefore unable to give consent.
- Sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust: Sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, such as a teacher, coach, or counselor.
Class 3 Felony
According to C.R.S (Colorado Revised Statutes) Section 18-3-402 (2021). Sexual assault is a class 3 felony if committed under the circumstances described in paragraph (h) ( the victim is physically helpless and the actor knows the victim is physically helpless and the victim has not consented).
Sexual assault is a class 3 felony if it is attended by any one or more of the following circumstances:
- The actor causes submission of the victim through the actual application of physical force or physical violence; or
- The actor causes submission of the victim by threat of imminent death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain, or kidnapping, to be inflicted on anyone, and the victim believes the actor has the present ability to execute these threats; or
- The actor causes submission of the victim by threatening to retaliate in the future against the victim, or any other person, and the victim reasonably believes that the actor will execute this threat.
- The actor has substantially impaired the victim’s power to appraise or control the victim’s conduct by employing, without the victim’s consent, any drug, intoxicant, or other means for the purpose of causing submission.
Class 2 Felony
Sexual assault is a class 2 felony if any one or more of the following circumstances exist:
- In the commission of the sexual assault, the actor is physically aided or abetted by one or more other persons; or
- The victim suffers serious bodily injury; or
- The actor is armed with a deadly weapon or an article used or fashioned in a manner to cause a person to reasonably believe that the article is a deadly weapon or represents verbally or otherwise that the actor is armed with a deadly weapon and uses the deadly weapon, article, or representation to cause submission of the victim.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
Sexual assault can be classified as a class 1 misdemeanor if any one or more of the following circumstances exist:
- Sexual contact without consent: Sexual contact without the other person’s consent, or where the person is incapable of giving consent due to being physically helpless, or due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Sexual contact with a child under 15 years of age: Sexual contact with a child under the age of 15, even if the child gives consent.
- Sexual contact with a person who is mentally incapacitated: Sexual contact with a person who is mentally incapacitated, and therefore unable to give consent.
- Sexual contact with a person in custody: Sexual contact with a person who is in custody, such as an inmate or detainee, by a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or other person in a position of authority.
Examples of Sexual Assault or Rape
Under Colorado law, sexual assault and rape are serious crimes that involve non-consensual sexual contact. Here are some examples of sexual assault or rape under Colorado law:
- Non-consensual sexual contact: Any sexual contact without the consent of the other person, including penetration or touching of intimate parts, is considered sexual assault. This includes cases where the victim is incapable of giving consent due to intoxication or other factors.
- Rape: Rape is the act of non-consensual sexual penetration. This can include vaginal, anal, or oral penetration, and can be committed using physical force, threats, or coercion.
- Sexual assault on a child: Sexual contact with a child under the age of 15 is considered sexual assault on a child, regardless of whether or not the child gave consent.
- Sexual assault on a person in a position of trust: Sexual contact with a person in a position of trust, such as a teacher or coach, is considered sexual assault.
- Sexual assault on a person with a disability: Sexual contact with a person with a disability who is unable to give consent is considered sexual assault.
It’s important to note that any sexual contact without the explicit and enthusiastic consent of all parties involved is a violation of Colorado law.
Unlawful Sexual Contact
Unlawful sexual contact in Colorado is a crime that involves non-penetrative sexual contact without consent, or where the other person is physically helpless or mentally incapacitated.
According to Colorado law, unlawful sexual contact occurs when:
- A person knowingly touches the intimate parts of another person, including the genitals, anus, groin, breast, or buttocks, either directly or through clothing, and without that person’s consent; or
- A person coerces or entices another person to touch the intimate parts of the first person or a third person, either directly or through clothing, without that person’s consent.
Unlawful sexual contact is considered a class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado, but the offense can be elevated to a felony if the victim is a child under the age of 15 or if the offender has a prior conviction for a sexual offense. The severity of the offense and the resulting penalties depend on the specific circumstances of the case.
Age of Consent
In Colorado, the age of consent is 17 years old. This means that anyone who engages in sexual activity with a person who is under the age of 17 may be charged with statutory rape, even if the sexual activity was consensual.
However, Colorado law provides for certain exceptions in which sexual activity with a minor under the age of 17 is not considered a crime. For example, if the two individuals are close in age, such as when they are both under the age of 18, the sexual activity may not be considered a crime. Additionally, if the sexual activity was consensual and involved two individuals who are married or in a romantic relationship, the sexual activity may not be considered a crime.
It is important to note that these exceptions are narrow and specific and that engaging in sexual activity with a minor under the age of 17 is generally illegal in Colorado. Anyone unsure about the legality of a sexual activity should consult with an attorney or qualified legal professional.
If Convicted Under Colorado Law
If the defendant is convicted of sexual assault pursuant to this subsection (5), the court shall sentence the defendant in accordance with section 18-1.3-401 (8) (e). A person convicted solely of sexual assault pursuant to this subsection (5) shall not be sentenced under the crime of violence provisions of 18-1.3-406 (2). Any sentence for a conviction under this subsection (5) shall be consecutive to any sentence for a conviction for a crime of violence under section 18-1.3-406.
Any person convicted of felony sexual assault committed on or after November 1, 1998, under any of the circumstances described in this section shall be sentenced in accordance with the provisions of part 10 of article 1.3 of this title.
Depending on what exactly you are charged with, the prosecution has to prove you did one or many of these things at any point in time. However, simply being accused is enough to land you in prison for the rest of your life.
How Sentencing Works
The first thing to know about sexual assault sentencing is that these charges fall under “indeterminate sentencing.” That means, that depending on the crime, and the presumptive range for that crime, you will be serving the minimum of that range up to the rest of your natural life. This means that only after a certain amount of time are you even eligible to be on parole, and every year after.
Just because you are eligible does NOT mean that you will be accepted. You can believe that when you are sentenced to an indeterminate sentence, you will be serving the majority of that sentence. This means it is very likely you will spend the rest of your life in prison. This is only one of the many reasons why sexual assault charges are such a serious matter, not to mention life after being registered as a sex offender.
Now if you are charged with a sexual assault that constitutes a crime of violence which is defined in 18-1.3-406, you shall be sentenced to an indeterminate term of at least the midpoint of the presumptive range for the offense charged – to a maximum, the rest of your natural life. Most felony sexual assaults are considered a crime of sexual violence.
Most sexual assault crimes are sentenced consecutively. This means that for every count that you plea, or are found guilty on, you will serve each sentence one after another. For example, if you are found guilty on three different counts of sexual assault, you will be serving the first sentence, and then once that is over the second one begins, etc. This can significantly impact the amount of time you spend in prison.
Now, concurrently is a possibility, but usually only for lower-level sexual contact charges, not for felony sexual assaults. “Concurrent sentencing” means you can serve all of your counts at the same time. So if you get five years for four different counts, you can serve a total of five years and satisfy the concurrent sentencing order for each count.
What Are the Penalties in Colorado?
Because sexual assault is a felony in Colorado, it carries still fines and penalties. Penalties for rape and other acts of penetration and/or intrusion can include:
- A fine of up to $750,000, and
- 4-12 years in a Colorado prison.
If “aggravating factors” are part of the assault, they can increase Colorado sexual assault penalties to as much as, or even more than:
- 24 years in prison, plus
- A fine of up to $1,000,000.
“Aggravating factors” can include the following:
- The victim was under 14 years of age,
- The victim was 15 or 16 and at least 10 years younger than the assailant,
- The assailant was aided in the crime by another person,
- The victim suffered serious bodily injury,
- The assailant used, or threatened the use of, a deadly weapon to cause submission of the victim.
- The defendant has a history of violent crime,
- At the time of the offense the defendant was on parole, on probation, on bond, or serving time for another felony, or
- The victim was pregnant.1
Can a Married Defendant Still be Charged?
Yes. A defendant can not claim there was no crime because he or she was married to the victim at the time the sexual assault occurred. There are exceptions in some cases, which might allow, for example, married couples to avoid statutory rape charges.
Contact Our Law Office
Contact us for a free consultation on your unique sexual assault case. M. Colin Bresee is an experienced criminal defense attorney. He not only knows how to defend these kinds of charges, but he knows how to prosecute them as well, giving him an edge in the courtroom. Colin served as a prosecutor for the Denver City Attorney’s Office and as the District Attorney for different municipalities earlier in his career.
Don’t let these charges determine the rest of your life. Get the legal advice you need and find a criminal defense lawyer that can represent you and your family.
Follow the links below for more information about this topic.