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Colorado Capital Punishment Laws

Capital punishment, also known as "the death penalty," remains a legal sentence under Colorado laws for certain crimes. While Colorado has executed a total of 101 people in its history (all of them male and for the offense of murder), since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1978, the state has only executed one person in 1997 and is considered a "de facto" non-capital punishment state. This is a brief summary of capital punishment laws in Colorado.

Capital Punishment Statutes in Colorado

To some extent, states are permitted to have their own capital punishment laws: 18 states have banned capital punishment, and 32 states have death penalty laws in place. The following table outlines Colorado's capital punishment laws.

Code Section

COL. REV. STAT. §18-3-101, et seq: Homicide

COL. REV. STAT. §18-3-301, et seq: Kidnapping

Is Capital Punishment Allowed?

Yes for Class 1 felonies

Effect of Defendant's Incapacity

Mitigating factor; suspend sentence; if "mentally retarded" then sentenced to life in prison.

Minimum Age

Age is mitigating factor; no one under 18 (Sullivan v. People, 111 Colo. 205, 139 P.2d 876 (1943))

Available for Crimes Other than Homicide?

First degree kidnapping if victim has been injured, but defendant will not be sentenced to death if victim is liberated alive prior to the conviction of kidnapper. Treason.

Definition of Capital Homicide

Murder committed by person imprisoned for Class 1, 2 or 3 felony; previous crime of violence; intentionally killed peace officer/former peace officer, judge, firefighter, elected official, federal officer he knew or should have known to be engaged in official duties or retaliation for past official duties; kidnapped person intentionally killed; agreement to kill; explosives or incendiary device; pecuniary gain; heinous or cruel; hate crime; victim was under 12; defendant killed 1 or more persons in the same episode; defendant killed victim knowing she was pregnant.

Method of Execution

Lethal injection

Capital punishment remains a divisive topic in American politics: most national polls show close to an even split between those in favor of the death penalty and those who prefer life imprisonment. In recent years there has been a decline in executions, coinciding with a decrease in public support of the death penalty. Just 29 people were executed in 2014 (most of which occurred in Florida, Missouri, and Texas), down from a post-1978 peak of 98 in 1999.

Related Resources for Colorado Capital Punishment Laws:

Many states have differing laws regarding the death penalty, and they can change over time. If you would like legal assistance with a death penalty matter, you can contact a Colorado criminal law attorney. You can also visit FindLaw's Capital Punishment and the Death Penalty section for more articles and information on this topic.

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