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First-Degree Murder

In the State of Colorado, the act of first-degree murder is defined as the deliberate and intentional killing of another person. The definition also includes killings that may result from risky and careless behavior, which is where the offender exhibits an extreme indifference to the sanctity of human life. The crime of first-degree murder is gravely serious and carries life-changing penalties that could significantly impact your future forever.

If you’ve been charged with first-degree murder or any type of homicide or manslaughter, it’s critical you secure legal representation as soon as possible. First-degree murder is classified as a class 1 felony, meaning it carries a lifelong sentence. There is no mandatory parole period and therefore those convicted of the crime will spend their entire life behind bars. With so much on the line, it’s imperative you have an experienced and talented attorney on your side throughout the entire process.

Colorado Springs Homicide Defense Attorney | First-Degree Murder, CO

Few crimes warrant a life-long sentence in Colorado. The offenses that do carry this sentence, including first-degree murder, are also notoriously difficult to defend. Plus, violent crimes like first-degree murder tend to carry a high degree of public scrutiny which could affect your friends and family. That is why having a knowledgeable Colorado murder defense attorney on your side is vital if you’ve been charged with a type of homicide or manslaughter.

If you’ve been accused or arrested of murder or manslaughter in any degree, contact the skilled lawyers at Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC. Our Colorado Springs homicide defense attorneys provide effective and comprehensive legal services to all our clients. The attorneys at Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC have decades of combined legal experience and can utilize their skills to craft a formidable defense against the prosecution.

Call Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC today at (719) 328-1616 to set up your first consultation. Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC accepts clients throughout the greater Colorado Springs and El Paso County area including Peyton, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Monument, and Black Forest.

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First Degree Murder Defined in Colorado

Under Colorado law, the crime of murder is separated into various degrees based on the offender’s deliberation of the crime, also known as premeditation. Manslaughter, on the other hand, is seen as a distinct crime and classified by outside factors including whether the offense was committed due to negligence or while operating a motor vehicle. The definition for first-degree murder can be found under Section 18-3-102(1) of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

  • A person is guilty of first-degree murder if:
    • After deliberating on the act, the offender with intent causes the death of another person other than themselves
    • Procures a conviction and execution of an innocent person through perjury or subornation of perjury
    • Engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of serious injury or death to another person or multiple people other than themselves under circumstances that evidence extreme indifference to the value of human life, which thereby results in the death of another person or people
    • The offender is guilty of unlawful distribution, dispensation, or sale of a controlled substance to another person under the age of 18 on a premise defined as school grounds under section 18-18-407(2), or 18-18-407(1)(g)(I) for crimes committed on or after October 1st, 2013 and the death of such person was caused by the use of the controlled substance
    • Caused the death of a child under the age of 12 years old and the offender was in a position of trust with said child

There are a few definitions we need to address within the elements of the crime before we can delve further into the penalties. The term “in a position of trust” includes but is not limited to:

  • Parents of the child
  • Any person acting in place of a parent including a guardian
  • Any person who is responsible for the child’s health, education, welfare
  • Any person supervising the child including foster care, daycare, family care, or institutional care, no matter how brief

The phrase “after deliberation” in the context of a first-degree murder charge means the crime was committed after an exercise of reflection and judgment by the offender. That means the crime was not committed in a hasty or impulsive manner. Instead, the offender must have spent some time premeditating the act for the crime to be classified as first-degree murder.

“Extreme indifference” or “universal malice” is indicated by conduct that shows a tremendous lack of general care and concern for the value of human life. It essentially means the offender exhibited cold-bloodedness, extreme indifference, or aggravated recklessness during the commission of the offense.


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What is the Difference Between First and Second Degree Murder?

The Colorado Revised Code lists several different forms of murder depending on the circumstances of the crime. These include first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and vehicular homicide. What separates first and second-degree murder is the intent behind the crime.

First-degree murder involves the intentional killing of another person after some deliberation or extreme indifference to human life in general. Meaning the victim’s death was by no means an accident as the offender had an awareness their actions were dangerous, or they premeditated the act itself. A second-degree murder conviction does require proof of the offender’s intent, but the crime does not include an element for premeditation. Most second-degree murder cases occur because the offender was in the “heat of the moment” and acted on emotions rather than logic.


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First-Degree Murder Sentence in Colorado

There are few charges as heinous as murder, so the State of Colorado does not spare those accused of the crime any kindness. If you’re convicted of first-degree murder in the State of Colorado, you should expect to face a Class 1 Felony, which carries a sentence of life in prison. You will not be given a mandatory parole period and will live the rest of your life incarcerated.

Class 1 felonies are technically a deportable offense, but defendants will not be removed from the U.S. for first-degree murder unless their sentence is commuted. It’s also important to note that since first-degree murder is a class 1 felony there exists no statute of limitations for the crime. Suspects can be charged with the offense at any time, even if the crime occurred decades ago.


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What Degrees of Murder Are There in Colorado?

  • Second-Degree Murder – If an offender intentionally kills another person without premeditation, then they may be charged with second-degree murder. The crime is defined under Section 18-3-103 of the Colorado Revised Statutes which states the offender must have acted with the intent to cause someone’s death but did not have time to deliberate on the act. Generally, second-degree murder is classified as a class 2 felony.
  • Manslaughter – The crime of manslaughter can be located under Section 8-3-104 of the C.R.S. The statute states a person is guilty of manslaughter if their reckless actions result in the death of another person or they aid someone with suicide. A conviction for manslaughter in Colorado will result in a class 4 felony.
  • Criminally Negligent Homicide – When an act of negligence is another person’s cause of death, then the responsible party may be charged with criminally negligent homicide. The offender must not have any intent to kill but instead fails to perceive a risk that a reasonable person would have noticed and responded to. If the offender’s negligent actions result in another person’s death, then they’ll be charged with a class 5 felony.
  • Vehicular Homicide – Operating a motor vehicle can be dangerous and if a person’s reckless behavior while driving results in another’s death they may be charged with vehicular homicide. The crime can be found under 18-3-106 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, which lists a wide range of actions while operating a vehicle that could result in another’s death including driving under the influence. If the victim died due to reckless driving, then the offender will face a class 4 felony. However, if alcohol or drugs were involved, then the offender will face a class 3 felony.

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Additional Resources

The Innocence Project | Colorado Chapter – Visit the official website for the Innocent Project, which is a non-profit organization committed to exonerating individuals who were wrongly convicted under the U.S. legal system. Access the site for the Colorado chapter to read more about policies that could impact criminal reform and protect American citizens from wrongful accusations and convictions.

Murder in the First Degree | C.R.S. – Visit the official website for the Colorado Revised Code to research the laws surrounding first-degree murder in Colorado. Access the site to read the elements of the offense, penalties upon conviction, and other related crimes.


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Murder Defense Lawyer, Colorado Springs CO

If you’ve been charged with a form of murder or manslaughter under Colorado law, you need an attorney now. Contact the legal team at Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC for answers to all your burning questions. We can provide a thorough case analysis and then start developing a defense plan tailor-made for your case immediately. With decades of combined experience on your side, you can rest assured the legal team at Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC is working tirelessly on your case for the best possible outcome.

Call Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC today at (719) 328-1616 and schedule your first confidential consultation. Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC is located in Colorado Springs, but we accept clients throughout the greater El Paso County area.


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