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CHAPTER 6: SELECTED CRIMINAL OFFENSES - Table of Contents

6.1 - Overview6.2 - Inchoate Offenses6.3 - Homicide6.4 - Assault6.5 - Domestic Violence6.6 - Other Unlawful Offenses against the person6.7 - Unlawful Sexual Behavior6.8 - Offenses against Property6.9 - Tresspass, Tampering and Mischief6.10 - Offenses involving Fraud6.11 - Offenses involving Family Relations6.12 - Offenses relating to Morals6.13 - Offenses against Government Operations and Public Order6.14 - Offenses relating to Weapons6.15 - Offenses relating to Controlled Substances6.16 - Alcohol/Drug related Traffic Incidents6.17 - Crimes Against Vulnerable Victims6.18 - Computer Crimes6.19 - Identity Theft

6.3 HOMICIDE

Article 3 of Title 18 codifies crimes against persons, and Part 1 of Article 3 sets out the various forms of homicide and related offenses. The four versions of homicide differ in the mental state required for conviction, and vary significantly as to the possible punishment.

The most serious offense one can commit is first degree murder. Codified at C.R.S. 18-3-102, the most common variation of first degree murder requires proof that the defendant, after deliberation and with the intent to cause to the death of another person, cause the death of that other person or another person. The phrase 'after deliberation' is defined by C.R.S. 18-3-101(3) to mean "intentionally [and] after the exercise of reflection and judgment concerning the act." A hasty or impulsive act is excluded from the definition of an act committed after deliberation.

First degree murder can be committed in other ways. A person commits first degree murder if the person commits any of several listed serious crimes and during the commission of that crime, or the flight from that crime, the death of a person other than a participant in the crime is caused by anyone. For example, if two people rob a bank and one of them kills a teller, the robber who did not shoot could still be charged with felony murder. This variation of first degree murder is commonly referred to as felony murder. The statute provides an affirmative defense to felony murder if the defendant can establish that he or she did not commit or even contemplate the homicidal act, was not armed, had no reason to believe any co-participant was armed, and did not engage in any conduct that was likely to cause death or serious bodily injury. There has been vigorous public and legal debate aboiut the breadth of the felony murder doctrine.

A person commits first degree murder if the person commits perjury or suborns (induces another to commit) perjury and that perjury procures the conviction and execution of an innocent person. Additionally, a person commits first degree murder if the person, "with an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to human life generally" knowingly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death to another and causes the death of another. This extreme indifference charge might be used when someone fires a weapon into a crowd without the intent to kill any one particular person. A person commits first degree murder if the person sells controlled substances to a person under eighteen on school grounds and the controlled substance causes the death of the purchaser. Finally, a person commits first degree murder if the person knowingly causes the death of a child under the age of twelve and the person is in a position of trust with respect to that child.

Murder in the first degree is a class 1 felony. The punishment for a class 1 felony is execution or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Second degree murder is committed when a person knowingly causes the death of another person and is codified at C.R.S. 18-3-103. A person acts 'knowingly' with respect to conduct when he is aware that his conduct is of such nature. A person acts 'knowingly' with respect to a result of his conduct when "he is aware that his conduct is practically certain to cause the result." Knowingly is a less culpable mental state than the mental state of 'after deliberation' required for first degree murder. Second degree murder charges are appropriate when the prosecution believes that the defendant intentionally casued the death of another person, but did not plan that death beforehand. Self-induced intoxication is specifically excluded as a defense to second degree murder. Generally, second degree murder is a class 2 felony, but it is reduced to a class 3 felony if the "act causing the death was performed upon a sudden heat of passion."

Manslaughter is committed if a person recklessly causes the death of another person or intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide. Recklessness is a less culpable mental state than intentionally or after deliberation, and recklessly is defined as consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur. Someone who recklessly handles a gun, knowing that other people are around, and kills another person might be charged with manslaughter. The defendant did not intend to kill anyone, but his recklessness resulted in a death. Manslaughter is codified at C.R.S. 18-3-104 and is a class 4 felony.

The final variation of traditional homicide is criminally negligent homicide, which occurs when one negligently causes the death of another person. A person acts with criminal negligence when, through a "gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise, he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur." Criminally negligent homicide is codified at C.R.S. 18-3-105 and is a class 5 felony. However, if criminally negligent homicide is committed against an at-risk adult, it is a class 4 felony. See C.R.S. 18-6.5-103(2)(a). Negligence is a less culpable state of mind than recklessness. Recklessness requires that the person disregard a known risk, while negligence requires only that the person fail to perceive the risk.

Colorado has the crime of vehicular homicide, which can be committed in either of two ways. A person commits vehicular homicide if the person drives recklessly and the driving is the proximate cause of the death of another person. Proximate cause is defined as "a cause which in natural and probable sequence caused the injury" and without which the injury would not have occurred. A person also commits vehicular homicide if the person drives while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both and is the proximate cause of the death of another. The alcohol related version is a strict liability crime, meaning that the prosecution need not prove any criminal intent or other state of mind. Vehicular homicide is codified at C.R.S. 18-3-106. It is a class 4 felony when the driver is reckless and a class 3 felony when the driver is under the influence.

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