The Lux Law Firm
Former State Prosecutor Dedicating His Experience and Skill to Defend You Against Felony Charges
You probably have numerous questions to ask a Colorado Springs felony defense attorney after your arrest on felony charges. The first question on everyone’s mind after getting charged with a felony is, Will I go to prison? The next question, which is an obvious follow-up from the first, is, If I have to go to jail, how much time will I get?
Anyone facing a felony charge in Colorado wants to know the answer to those questions right away. Why wouldn’t they? Facing the possibility of losing your liberty and being locked in prison for several years should be of primary concern.
Colorado Springs felony defense attorney Austin Lux understands the stress you feel. As a deputy district attorney who worked tough cases for many years in Colorado, he experienced first-hand the criminal justice system’s tremendous power. Now, as an award-winning Colorado felony defense attorney, Austin applies the lessons he learned and the skills he developed as a prosecutor to fight for justice on behalf of people who find themselves facing the potentially life-altering consequences of a felony conviction in Colorado.
-If you are ready to stop the worry and uncertainty, schedule a free, non-committal consultation today.
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What Is a Felony in Colorado?
A felony under Colorado law is any crime that carries a punishment of at least one year in prison. The maximum prison sentence for a felony is life. Any charge that carries less than one year in jail is a misdemeanor. A charge that carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison is a petty misdemeanor.
Examples of felonies in Colorado include:
- Assault with a weapon,
- Serious drug offenses like trafficking,
- Armed Robbery, and
- Certain domestic violence crimes.
Police can charge some misdemeanors, like assault or DUI, as felonies if they have multiple convictions for the same charge. Other charges like fraud or destruction of another’s property could be a felony or misdemeanor depending on the monetary value of the property stolen or damaged.
Classes of Felonies in Colorado
Colorado categorizes its felony crimes into classes. The class of each felony determines the minimum and maximum prison terms, if any. Some felony classes have subclasses that apply depending on whether the charge carries a substantial risk of violence or if a drug crime is involved.
Colorado statutes establish the state’s felony sentencing structure. The classes for non-drug felonies, and the possible sentencing range, follow in the chart below:
|Felony Class||Minimum Sentence||Maximum Sentence||Mandatory Parole||Fines|
|Class 2||8 Years||24 Years||Five years for a crime of violence; Three years if no violent crime is alleged.||$5,000 to $1,000,000|
|Class 3||4 Years||12 Years||Three Years||$3,000 to $750,000|
|Class 4||2 Years||6 Years||Three Years||$2,000 to $500,000|
|Class 5||1 Year||3 Years||Two Years||$1,000 to $100,000|
|Class 6||12 Months||18 months||One Year||$1,000 to $100,000|
Some felony offenses in Colorado remain unclassified. The individual statutes specify the possible sentences and fines for unclassified felony offenses.
Penalties for Felony Drug Convictions in Colorado
Colorado seeks a balance between punishment and rehabilitation for drug crimes. Consequently, the felony sentencing structure for drug offenses differs from non-drug offenses. Accordingly, individuals convicted of drug felonies in Colorado face the following punishments:
|Drug Felony Class||Presumptive Minimum Sentence||Presumptive Maximum Sentence||Aggravated Minimum Sentence||Aggravated Maximum Sentence||Mandatory Parole||Range of Fines|
|Level One||8 Years||32 Years||None||None||3 Years||$5,000 to $1,000,000|
|Level Two||4 Years||8 Years||8 Years||16 Years||2 Years||$3,000 to $750,000|
|Level Three||2 Years||4 Years||4 Years||6 Years||1 Year||$2,000 to $500,000|
|Level Four||6 Months||1 Year||1 Year||2 Years||1 Year||$1,000 to $100,000|
A judge has no discretion but to sentence a person convicted of a Level One drug felony in Colorado to an eight-year minimum mandatory sentence. Judges retain some control to suspend a sentence in favor of probation for less-serious drug felonies. However, the accused must remain eligible for probation. If not, then the judge must sentence that person to prison and cannot suspend the sentence.
Colorado’s felony drug laws allow prosecutors to seek enhanced penalties for drug felonies Levels Two through Four. An aggravating factor could double your sentence in some instances. The possibility of facing harsh prison sentences after a felony charge highlights the need to speak with a Colorado Springs felony defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Enhanced Prison Sentences
The table above discusses the possibility of an enhanced prison sentence for a drug felony conviction with aggravating factors. Non-drug felonies also carry the chance that the prosecution will seek to impose a harsher punishment than the presumptive penalty because of your history of convictions or the severity of the crime.
Examples of instances when the sentencing judge could impose a sentence greater than the presumptive sentence for the crime include:
- The crime alleged is one of violence;
- The crime carries an “extraordinary risk”;
- The perpetrator is a habitual criminal;
- The victim of the crime is an “at-risk” victim; or
- Aggravating circumstances require a stiffer penalty than the presumptive sentence.
An experienced Colorado Springs felony defense attorney understands how to negotiate a reduced sentence when possible. Remember that the state must prove you guilty of a felony before they can seek enhanced penalties.
Alternatives to Prison
Some judges view incarceration as a just outcome for most felony cases. Felonies are serious crimes that could have a lasting effect on the victim. But not every person facing a felony charge in Colorado Springs deserves prison.
Courts view each person accused of a felony on an individual basis. Every person who appears before a sentencing judge should have individualized attention. All people who appear before the court have a different history than everyone else. A person is more than their criminal history shows.
An effective Colorado Springs felony defense attorney knows which judges are more receptive to sentencing alternatives to prison. By accentuating your positive qualities and explaining why you need help rather than prison, a skilled Colorado Springs felony defense attorney could help you avoid prison. Instead of receiving the presumptive incarcerated sentence, you may receive a punishment that includes:
- Deferred prosecution with orders to satisfy conditions of release;
- Deferred sentencing; or
- A referral to community corrections.
The sentencing judge may impose conditions upon you such as remaining drug or alcohol-free, submitting to random drug testing, meeting with a probation officer, staying employed or in school, or paying restitution. Framing a sentence in this fashion offers a chance for you to rehabilitate yourself without incarceration. However, conditional punishments have severe consequences if you do not comply with the judge’s terms.
Unforeseen Consequences of a Felony Conviction in Colorado
Understandably, people who learn they have felony charges become fixated on the punishment the court will give after a conviction. These concerns are immediate, and avoiding prison is essential to every person. However, you should not enter into any plea deal or take a case to trial without understanding all the ramifications involved after a conviction.
Not having a felony conviction on your record is significant. A felony conviction means you will:
- Lose your voting rights;
- Face professional discipline if you have a professional license;
- Suffer immigration consequences such as the denial of naturalization, revocation of your Green Card or temporary protected status, and denial of lawful re-entry into the country if you are not a citizen;
- Forfeit your right to serve on a jury (people underestimate the importance of this right);
- Lose eligibility for government benefits; and
- Lose the right to own or possess a firearm.
Having a felony conviction may prevent you from working in certain fields. Employers can disqualify you immediately because you have a felony conviction, or at the very least, they will scrutinize you more than other employees. You may also be subject to providing a DNA sample to be included in a convicted felon database.
Felony Defenses in Colorado
The state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on each element of the charge alleged before a judge can pass sentence upon you. The prosecution must convince the jury unanimously that you are guilty. Prosecutors know that meeting their burden requires building a strong case.
Felony prosecutors have the resources and skills required to handle felony cases. Prosecutors go to trial often and know how to try a case. That is why having a former prosecutor who is now a highly regarded Colorado Springs felony defense attorney in your case is essential to protecting your freedom.
An experienced Colorado Springs felony defense attorney will deconstruct the state’s case and find the weakness. No case is perfect. A successful defense exploits the flaws in the case and anticipates the prosecutor’s arguments. A former prosecutor knows how to do just that.
Of course, all criminal cases differ from each other factually. Accordingly, no two defense strategies will be exactly alike. That is why a qualified Colorado Springs felony defense lawyer will examine all the evidence to uncover every weakness in your case.
Common Defense Strategies
Defense strategies typically fall into three categories, all of which overlap: plea negotiations, motion practice, and trial defenses.
Plea bargaining is essential to achieving justice for every person facing felony charges. A skilled negotiator can convince the prosecution to reduce charges, offer a reduced prison sentence, or agree to dismiss a case in the right circumstances. A strong negotiator could use the weaknesses in the state’s case against you to convince them to offer a light penalty. Agreeing to these terms means you will plead guilty to the charges. You should thoroughly discuss this option with your lawyer before deciding to accept the plea.
Motions to suppress
Motions to suppress evidence are a critical tool in many cases. Judges hear motions to suppress evidence before trial. Winning the motion for the defense could weaken the state’s case against you or force them to dismiss it altogether.
A judge could throw out or suppress key evidence lodged against you if the police violated your rights. For example, if the police pulled you over for no reason and searched your car, you have a right to challenge the police officer’s actions in a motion to suppress before trial. The remedy for a violation of your right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures is suppressing the unlawfully seized evidence from trial. Frequently, the prosecutor must dismiss your case after you win a motion to suppress in these situations because they have no evidence to support their allegations.
Similarly, if you spoke with the police when you were in custody but they did not give you the required Miranda warnings, then the judge deciding your motion to suppress could order the statements you made suppressed from the trial.
Finding justice after trial
Sometimes the pursuit of justice requires you to go to trial. You will need an experienced trial lawyer by your side. A knowledgeable criminal defense trial lawyer will argue to the jury that the State failed to prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
The methods used to preserve the presumption of innocence depend on the nature of your case. In some cases, attacking witnesses’ credibility will be the best strategy. In other cases, such as unlawful possession of drugs or firearms, your attorney might argue that the State’s evidence did not meet the legal definition of possession. Lastly, cases such as burglary or robbery might use an alibi as a defense.
In other instances, an affirmative defense such as self-defense or a mental health defense could be the best strategy.
No matter which situation you find yourself in, you should have a highly skilled Colorado Springs felony defense attorney fighting for you.
Experienced Colorado Springs Felony Defense Attorney Ready to Fight for You
As a former prosecutor, Austin Lux knows what is at stake for you and your family. He relies on his experience as a former prosecuting attorney to your advantage. With so much of your life riding on the outcome of your felony charges, do not trust your defense to anyone else.