A Look at the Differences Between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degree Assault

Although everyone’s familiar with the term assault, not many people realize that the term doesn’t have a straightforward meaning. One common definition is that an assault is any purposeful act that causes another person to fear for their safety. Needless to say, that’s pretty vague.

For that reason, Colorado law separates the crime of assault into three separate charges, each one increasing in severity based upon the specifics of a chargeable act. Here’s an overview of what they are. We’ll cover 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree assault, including the differences between all three. Let’s get started.

3rd-Degree Assault

In Colorado, 3rd-degree assault is the least serious assault charge a person could face. It’s a misdemeanor that’s also called simple assault in legal parlance. You may be charged with 3rd-degree assault if you intentionally (or through negligence) cause an injury to another person. You may also face this charge if you cause an injury to another using a deadly weapon if you’re also found guilty of criminal negligence.

This means even if you cause an injury that’s completely by accident, you could face a 3rd-degree assault charge. And since it’s a class 1 misdemeanor, getting convicted of 3rd-degree assault could result in up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

2nd-Degree Assault

The next level of assault charge is 2nd-degree assault. And it’s an even more serious charge. It applies when you either intentionally cause a serious injury to another person without a deadly weapon. But it also applies if you recklessly cause a serious injury that does involve a deadly weapon. You may also face this charge if you drug another person without their consent.

The sentence for a 2nd-degree assault is a prison sentence of two to six years and a fine of up to $500,000. But there’s an exception. If your 2nd-degree assault involved the use of (or the threat of) a deadly weapon – or if it resulted in a serious injury to the other person, the prison sentence would be between five and sixteen years.

1st-Degree Assault

The most serious assault charge there is, a 1st-degree assault applies if you intentionally do one of three things:

  • Seriously injure someone using a deadly weapon
  • Commit an act that permanently disfigures the victim
  • Permanently damage the organ function of the victim

But it may also apply if you cause those same types of harm through risky behavior – even if you don’t intend to harm anyone. So, if you were, for example, playing with a loaded firearm and unintentionally shot someone else – that would qualify.

A 1st-degree assault is a class 3 felony that comes with some stiff punishments. They include a prison sentence of between ten and thirty-two years, as well as a fine of up to $750,000.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there’s more than one definition of assault in the eyes of Colorado law. And they’re all serious and come with potentially life-altering consequences. And that’s why you’ll need to mount an effective defense if you’re ever charged with an assault.

That means retaining a law firm with years of experience litigating assault charges here in Colorado. Doing so could mean the difference between getting a second chance and paying for a mistake with years of your life. So if you’ve been charged with an assault, take it seriously – because the consequences may be significant.