Is Sexual Assault a Felony?

Is Sexual Assault a Felony?

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment reports that one in three Coloradans experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. An astonishing 80% of victims will experience some form of sexual violence before the age of 25. Victims 18 years of age and younger are also more likely to experience repeat victimization. 

We are so sorry if this has happened to you. But please know, reporting the assault is critical to holding your perpetrator responsible for their actions. For many, however, fear of blame, not being believed, or retaliation may keep sexual assault victims from speaking up. You are not alone. Colorado has comprehensive laws dedicated to protecting sexual assault victims. Understanding these laws can help encourage victims to come forward with their cases. 

If you or a loved one has unfortunately been the victim of a sexual assault in Colorado, you have legal rights and options. At Bachus & Schanker, our sexual assault attorneys are committed to representing victims of sexual assault and holding perpetrators responsible for their actions.

What is the legal definition of sexual assault in Colorado? 

Sexual assault is defined as an act that is sexual in nature and perpetrated against an individual without their consent. Sexual assault ranges in degree and type with different charges applied to the specific type of assault. 

Colorado recognizes sexual assault as a crime punishable by fines, jail time, and required registration on the national sex offender list. State law describes a sexual assault as an act in which a perpetrator knowingly inflicts sexual intrusion or sexual penetration on a victim. 

Colorado also recognizes the offense of unlawful sexual contact as an act committed by a perpetrator in which the perpetrator knowingly touches “the victim’s intimate parts with the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse,” as defined by state law. 

Other types of sexual assault recognized by Colorado law include statutory rape, sexual assault on a child, sexual battery, and sodomy. 

There are a variety of types of sexual assault that can be punishable by state law. Unlawful acts of sexual contact and sexual assault include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Forcing a victim into sexual acts without their consent 
  • Engaging in a sexual assault with an individual who does not have the capacity to consent
  • Engaging in sexual acts with minors 15 years of age and younger when the perpetrator is four or more years older than the victim 
  • A perpetrator who is in a position of power, but abuses this power to sexually assault their victim 
  • Unwanted physical sexual contact 
  • Sexually charged language directed at a victim
  • Attempted rape
  • Rape

Is sexual assault a felony in Colorado?

All cases of sexual assault in Colorado are unique. Sexual assault can be classified as felonies but the type of felony depends on the type of assault that has occurred. 

Class 2 felonies are the most serious of felony charges against perpetrators. There are also class 3 and class 4 felonies. 

Class 2 sexual assault felony

A sexual assault is defined as a class 2 felony if the assault occurs with deadly force, results in serious injury, or is classified as a “gang rape.” One or more of the following factors must exist to fall under this felony charge: 

  • During the sexual assault, the actor is physically aided or abetted by one or more other persons
  • The victim suffers serious bodily injury
  • The perpetrator is armed with a deadly weapon and threatens a victim with harm if they do not comply with the assault. 

Penalties for a class 3 felony include 8 to 24 years in prison, and/or $5,000 to $1,000,000 in fines.

Class 3 sexual assault felony 

A class 3 sexual assault felony occurs when the assault was executed by force or by drugging. The perpetrator knows the victim is physically helpless and that the victim has not consented, but still takes advantage of the situation. Factors present must include at least one of the following: 

  • Physical force or violence
  • The threat of physical force or violence
  • Drugging a victim without their consent
  • A victim must have a believable threat of imminent death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain, or kidnapping
  • The threat of future retaliation against the victim or any other person if they report the assault

Penalties for a class 3 felony include 4 to 16 years in prison, and/or $3,000 to $750,000 in fines.

Class 4 sexual assault felonies 

Types of sexual assaults classified as class 4 felonies are defined as sexual assault without force and include one or more of the following characteristics: 

  • Sexual penetration without the other person’s consent or where the person is physically helpless, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or mentally incapacitated
  • Sexual penetration with a child under 15 years of age, even if the child has given consent
  • Sexual penetration with a person who is in custody and the assault was perpetrated by a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or other person in a position of authority
  • Sexual penetration with a person who is mentally incapacitated and is unable to give consent
  • Sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, such as a teacher, coach, counselor, or other trusted adult in the child’s life. 

Penalties for a class 4 felony include 2 to 8 years in prison, and/or $2,000 to $500,000 in fines.

What is the lowest charge of sexual assault?

Because there are many different types of sexual assault, there are different classifications of punishment. The lowest charge of sexual assault in Colorado is a class 4 felony. Even with a class 4 felony charge, a perpetrator must register as a sex offender. 

Is sexual battery a felony or misdemeanor in Colorado? 

Sexual battery is a term used to describe a sexual assault in which a victim does not give consent to engage in a sexual act. Unlawful sexual contact rises to the level of a misdemeanor; however, sexual battery is a felony in Colorado. The type of sexual battery a victim suffers determines the severity of the felony. 

Should I work with a sexual assault attorney in Colorado?

When you work with a Colorado sexual assault attorney, you will have the expertise of a lawyer who knows the nuances of Colorado sexual assault law. Doing so ensures your perpetrator answers for their crimes and that other victims are protected from trauma, pain and suffering. We’re sorry this has happened to you, and we’ll be with you every step of the way. 

The team at Bachus & Schanker brings decades of experience, a dedicated team of paralegals and investigators, and compassionate care to help victims navigate what is undoubtedly one of the hardest things anyone can experience. 

Bachus & Schanker are here for you

Focus is on one side of the scales of justice with a book blurred out in the background on a personal injury lawyer's desk.

Our Victim Advocates team also serves as a liaison between your family, the prosecutor’s office, and other parties involved to ensure your case is represented to the fullest extent of the law. Trust our team to investigate your case thoroughly and collect pertinent evidence to support your claims. 


CRS 18-3-402.

CRS 18-3-404.

Sex Crimes: Definitions and Penalties Colorado. (2023). 

Sexual violence prevention statistics & resources. (2023).

Similar Posts