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How does adult sentencing work in Colorado?

Colorado residents may benefit from learning more about the state's sentencing laws for adults. While operating within statutory parameters, judges are permitted to use their own discretion when sentencing a defendant. Sentencing laws are often complicated because there may be multiple levels affected by different criteria. In Colorado, six classes constitute the hierarchy of felony offenses.

The maximum penalty for a Class 1 felony is death, and the minimum penalty is life in prison. In contrast, the maximum penalty for a Class 6 felony is 18 months in jail while the minimum is one year in jail. Defendants' sentences may be shortened, but any reduction would occur after their hearing. If the convict qualifies for a reduced sentence, a panel will evaluate the earned time and determine their eligibility for parole. The sentence remains unchanged, but the time that's actually served in prison is subject to modification.

Five types of crimes allow judges to order special sentencing that provides longer terms for more serious offenses. The five instances that may warrant special sentencing include crimes involving violence, crimes with aggravating and extraordinary circumstances, crimes presenting a significant risk of harm to society, crimes involving circumstances that enhance the sentencing and crimes involving extraordinary mitigating circumstances. Special sentencing for Class 2 felonies may add up to 48 years onto the normal presumptive ranges.

People who have been accused of a committing a serious felony typically benefit from meeting with a criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible. Legal counsel may be able to investigate the charges and identify the most effective strategy for exonerating the defendant. Exposing misconduct or incompetence in the prosecution's case may compel a judge to dismiss or reduce the charges against the defendant. Lawyers may also be successful with negotiating a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor.

Source: Colorado.gov, "Colorado's Adult Sentencing Laws", September 19, 2014

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