Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

If you are arrested and charged for a criminal offense, you might be wondering what criteria the prosecution uses to charge you. Colorado has specific guidelines that define and distinguish felonies from misdemeanors.

A Denver criminal defense attorney who’s well-conversant with these laws can assist you in avoiding harsh criminal consequences. It is always easier to fight if you understand what is at stake and what you can do about it.

How Differently are Offenses Classified in Denver?

A felony offense in Colorado can fall in either of its six classes or the four levels of drug felonies. Here is how it is categorized, from the most serious to the least serious:

  • Class 1 felony
  • Class 2 felony
  • Class 3 felony
  • Class 4 felony
  • Class 5 felony
  • Class 6 felony
  • Unclassified and drug felonies

On the other hand, misdemeanor offenses have three main classes, and other sub-categories of crimes not listed in the classes. Here is how it is categorized:

  • Class I misdemeanor
  • Class II misdemeanor
  • Class III misdemeanor
  • Uncategorized misdemeanor
  • Drug misdemeanor
  • Misdemeanor traffic offenses and petty crimes

A misdemeanors attorney in Denver, CO, can explain the charges facing you in Denver and help you prepare for what’s to come.

How Thin is the Line Between Felonies and Misdemeanors?

A thin line sometimes separates felonies and misdemeanors. For instance, threatening to assault someone and not actually doing it could be charged as a misdemeanor. Going ahead to assault them might escalate the charges to a felony in Colorado.

The prosecution can also make a mistake and charge you with a felony, when your offense is actually a misdemeanor. That’s why you need a Denver misdemeanors lawyer to identify inadequacies in your charge sheet and rectify them immediately. Notably, previous convictions of misdemeanor offenses can also lead to an upgrade of subsequent crimes.

How Do Sentencing Considerations Compare in Denver?

Convicts of misdemeanors should spend their time in confinement in county jail, not in the state prison system. The most serious misdemeanor in Denver carries a maximum jail term of 18 months and a maximum fine of $5,000. Judges are also easy on these offenses and often alternate jail with probation or deferred adjudication, depending on the circumstances.

Penalties for felonies, on the other hand, are more serious. Convicts can be sentenced to a lifetime in prison, and fines can be as high as $1,000,000. Depending on the nature of your actions, some people get probation. A Denver misdemeanors lawyer can enlighten you on the various possibilities of your case.

Is Alternative Sentencing Available in Both Felonies and Misdemeanors?

Contrary to the belief of many, alternative sentencing isn’t just available to minor offenses. The judge sometimes requires felons to attend drug treatment or anger management classes. If one completes the course and counseling, their felony might be reduced to a misdemeanor or dismissed altogether.

Misdemeanors that carry the risk of harm or violence and repeat offenders are the ones that often get jail sentences. Jail is avoidable for most other misdemeanors, and could be substituted with community service, special restitution, home detention, deferred sentencing, and probation.

Can One Seal Felony and Misdemeanor Records in Colorado?

Class 1 misdemeanors are only sealable five years after completion of the case or sentence. The waiting period for class 2 and 3 misdemeanors, on the other hand, is two years. However, you cannot seal a misdemeanor conviction for:

  • Crimes of violence
  • Domestic violence crimes
  • Traffic misdemeanors

Felonies that are ineligible for sealing in Denver include:

  • Domestic violence
  • DUIs
  • Sexual offenses
  • Class 3 felonies
  • Class 2 felonies
  • Class 1 felonies
  • Level 1 drug felonies

If your felony charge is dismissed, you can seal it right away. All other felony convictions except for level 2 drug felonies can be sealed two years later. Level 2 drug offenders have to wait for five years to earn sealing eligibility in Colorado.

Is the Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors Different From that of Felonies?

The prosecutor has one year to begin prosecuting perpetrators of traffic misdemeanors. All other misdemeanors can only be brought to court 18 months after the commission of the offense. Most felonies have a three-year time limit, except for the following:

  • 6 years for bribery
  • 20 years for sexual assault on victims of at least 15 years
  • 10 years for sexual assault on victims of 15 years or older
  • 10 years for vehicular homicide with hit and run
  • 5 years for vehicular homicide without hit and run

Some felonies are not subject to the statute of limitations in Denver. The following charges can be brought to court at any time:

  • Sex crimes reported within 20 years with DNA evidence
  • Felony forgery
  • Kidnapping
  • Treason
  • Murder

How Differently Do Misdemeanors and Felonies Affect Gun Rights in Denver?

Federal and Colorado state laws forbid felons from owning or possessing a firearm. A Governor’s Pardon might be the only way that those gun rights could be restored. If you have demonstrated rehabilitation since your felony conviction, a Denver misdemeanors lawyer can guide you on applying for clemency that might have your gun rights back.

Under federal laws, a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction completely and permanently takes away your right to possess or own any firearm. But a state conviction might not necessarily rob you of those privileges. The nature of a domestic violence incident determines whether or not you retain the rights.

A Legal Representative Protecting Your Rights

Felonies might differ from misdemeanors in several ways, but they both bear serious consequences. Regardless of the type of charges facing you, you risk ending up in confinement. Losing your freedom can change your life for good. You are better off fighting for the best possible outcome.

Daniel M. Murphy has been in the business of fighting for accused persons since 1996. His understanding and familiarity with the Denver criminal justice system might be advantageous to your felony or misdemeanor charges. Schedule your free consultation today to benefit from our aggressive defense and decades of experience.

Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.