Colorado Rape and Sexual Assault Laws

Colorado criminalizes rape and sexual assault. The crimes are no longer divided by degree or level, but instead into sexual assault or sexual contact based on whether penetration of any kind was completed or only touching of genitals and other intimate parts. The penalties for each crime vary based on a number of “aggravating” factors that increase criminal responsibility, for example using force or date rape drugs.

The following table details Colorado’s rape and sexual assault laws.

Code Sections Colorado Revised Statues Sections 18-3-402: Sexual Assault, and 18-3-404: Unlawful Sexual Contact
What’s Prohibited? Sexual Assault – Knowingly sexually penetrating or sexually intruding upon a victim by any of the following means:
  • The defendant:
    • Causes the victim to submit against his or her will
    • Knows the victim submits as erroneously believes the defendant to be his or her spouse
    • Engages in the sexual activity while claiming to offer a medical treatment, but it’s inconsistent with reasonable medical practices
  • The victim is:
    • Incapable of understanding the sexual conduct
    • Unconscious, asleep, or otherwise can’t consent and the defendant knows this
    • Under 14 years old and the defendant is at least 4 years old and not his or her spouse
    • 15 or 16 years old and the defendant is at least 10 years older and not his or her spouse
    • Detained in a jail, prison, or hospital where the defendant has authority over the victim and uses this authority to coerce the victim into the act

Unlawful Sexual Contact – Knowingly touching the victim’s intimate parts or making the victim touch the defendant’s intimate parts, or touching the clothing covering the intimate parts if this contact was for sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse, prohibited in any of the following cases:

  • The victim:
    • Doesn’t consent
    • Can’t understand the sexual conduct
    • Is unconscious or asleep and can’t consent
    • Is an inmate at a prison, jail, or hospital where the defendant has authority over him or her and uses that authority to coerce submission
  • The defendant uses date rape drugs to impair the victim
  • The defendant engages in the sexual contact while claiming to offer a medical treatment/exam, but the “exam” is inconsistent with reasonable medical practices
  • Knowingly inducing or coercing a child under 18 years old to expose their intimate parts or to engage in any sexual contact, intrusions, or penetration with another person for the defendant’s sexual gratification, by using any of the same means listed above for Sexual Assault
Penalties

Sexual Assault – Sentences vary based on the violence of the situation and other aggravating or penalty increase factors.

  • Class 2 Felony – 16-48 years in prison, a $5,000 to $1,000,000 fine, and 5 years mandatory parole (doubled from usual 8-24 years as a “crime of violence
    • The defendant was helped by someone
    • The victim suffers serious physical injury
    • The defendant was armed with a deadly weapon
  • Class 3 Felony – 8-24 years in prison, a $3,000 to $750,000 fine, and 5 years mandatory parole
    • The victim was physical disabled and didn’t consent
    • The defendant:
      • Forced the victim by physical force or violence
      • Threatened the victim with imminent death, serious physical injury, extreme pain, or kidnapping of anyone or future retaliation by any of those acts and the victim believe he or she could do that
      • Impaired the victim with a date rape drug
  • Class 4 Felony – Generally, this penalty applies, 4-12 years in prison, a $2,000 to $500,000 fine, and 3 years mandatory parole
  • Class 1 Misdemeanor – If the victim was 15 or 16 and the defendant was 10 years older, but is classified as an “extraordinary risk” crime that has an increased sentencing range of 6 months to 2 years and a fine of $500 to $5,000.

Unlawful Sexual Contact

  • Class 4 Felony – Applies if the defendant compels the victim by use of force, intimidation, or threat, or is done during a fake medical exam, or a child is coerced into exposing their intimate parts
  • Class 1 Misdemeanor – Typical penalty, note it’s also an “extraordinary risk” crime subject to increased sentences
Defenses It’s not a defense that a defendant was married to the victim when the sexual assault occurred, unless specifically provided for in the statute, for example, to help married couples avoid statutory rape charges.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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