Though it can happen in the blink of an eye, the consequences of committing a crime with a deadly weapon can last a lifetime.
Even if no one is physically hurt, using an illegal or dangerous weapon to threaten or compel someone to do something against their will carries much more severe charges than a similar crime committed without a deadly weapon in the State of Colorado.
Whatever the circumstances behind a deadly weapon charge, it’s essential to know how using a dangerous or illegal weapon dramatically increases the severity of criminal charges and sentencing under Colorado Revised Statutes.
If you are facing a deadly weapons charge, criminal defense attorneys at Right Law Group can review your case and help you plan your next steps.
Long-term Consequences for Both Victim and Perpetrator
The actual or potential harm for victims of deadly weapons is immense. And for those charged with committing these crimes, the legal consequences under Colorado law are also severe. A deadly weapon is defined as one that can cause serious injury or severe bodily harm to a person.
Upon conviction for deadly weapon charges, you risk losing:
- Professional licenses
- Immigration status
- Child custody
- Gun rights
It also results in substantial prison time and a lifelong criminal record.
Even after carrying out a sentence for a crime involving a deadly weapon, felons are prohibited from ever possessing weapons again. Being caught with one after a felony conviction is known as a POWPO offense, or “possession of a weapon by a previous offender.”
The penalties for a first-time POWPO conviction include:
- One to three years in prison
- $1,000–$100,000 in fines
Second-time POWPO convictions are more severe:
- Two to six years of prison
- $2,000–$500,000 in fines
For anyone charged with crimes involving a deadly weapon, the consequences are always more severe than a similar charge for crimes without a deadly weapon.
Colorado Deadly Weapons Statute
Colorado Revised Statutes, § 18-1-901(3)(e), defines “deadly weapon” as:
- A firearm, whether loaded or unloaded; or
- A knife, bludgeon, or any other weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, whether animate or inanimate, that, in the manner, it is used or intended to be used, is capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.
The breadth of this definition means that it’s far less the object or the material that the definition hinges on; it’s the intent behind the object’s use and the consequences.
There have been multiple cases in Colorado where a person’s hands were designated as deadly weapons because the individual was trained in martial arts of some kind. Truly anything can be considered a deadly weapon if the intended use is to cause serious physical harm.
How a Deadly Weapon Affects the Charges
A deadly weapon charge results in a higher minimum sentence upon conviction when used during a violent crime.
That stipulation is known as a “deadly weapon enhancement” and results in the following modification to conventional prison sentences:
- The new sentencing minimum is the median of the original sentence range without the deadly weapon (e.g., if the initial charge results in a sentence ranging from four to 10 years, use of a deadly weapon raises that minimum to 7 years);
- The new maximum sentence is double the original maximum limit (e.g., the 10-year maximum sentence of the same example becomes 20 years).
Deadly Weapons as Aggravating Factors
A deadly weapon is considered an aggravating factor for many crimes. These crimes become “crimes of violence” if use, the threat of use, or even possession of a dangerous weapon was at play.
Potential crimes of violence include numerous forms of:
- Sexual assault
- Domestic violence
- Sexual exploitation
- Aggravated robbery
Rare Cases of Mitigating Factors
Almost every individual charge for a crime of violence results in sentences that must be carried out consecutively. There are, however, a few cases when multiple charges can be carried out concurrently.
- Aggravated robbery
- Second-degree assault
- Escape from custody
There are also different possible levels of intentionality, which, if proven, can mitigate or worsen the consequence of a deadly weapon charge.
What State of Colorado Courts Will Consider
Once the use of a deadly weapon has been proven, the defendant’s state of mind becomes another critical factor. Depending on the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the alleged crime, the level of criminal liability can change dramatically.
In descending order of severity, these states of mind are:
- Intending to do harm
- Reckless behavior
- Criminal negligence
Further, the courts will try to determine the degree of physical injury. The Colorado Revised Statutes define “bodily injury” as any physical pain, illness, or impairment of physical or mental condition.
If the injuries resulted in fractures, substantial burns, or a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or impairment to organ functioning, that injury would be considered “serious bodily injury.”
Lastly, the courts will view a crime with a deadly weapon as more severe when perpetrated against on-duty officials. On-duty officials would include law enforcement officers, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, or judges.
Do You Need a Lawyer Experienced in Colorado Deadly Weapons Laws?
Being charged with a crime committed with a deadly weapon is one of the most severe legal issues you could face, so getting advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible is imperative. You’ll need a professional to advocate for your rights and ensure that due process is followed at every turn. A knowledgeable attorney will advise you of your options and help prepare your legal defense.
How a Colorado Defense Attorney Can Help
If you need help navigating the legal system when facing a deadly weapon charge in Colorado, reach out today for a free consultation. We’ll help you preserve as much of a bright future as possible for you and your loved ones.