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What is a Habitual Offender in Colorado?

If you are facing habitual offender charges in the state of Colorado, you will need to understand what this means. Being labeled a habitual offender can come with significant life-altering consequences and could even lead to a significantly harsher prison sentence.

There are plenty of instances where you may be accused of being a habitual offender without good reason. Because of this, you need to understand the nuances of this label and how you can best defend yourself. To do this, you need to hire a felony defense attorney who can represent you and guide you through this legal process.

Habitual Offenders Sentencing in Colorado

In Colorado, a habitual offender is a person who has been charged with a qualifying felony and who has been convicted of at least two prior qualifying felonies.

There are two categories of Habitual Offenders

  • “Little” Habitual, which is anyone who has had two prior qualifying felony convictions within 10 years of the new offense.
  • “Big” Habitual, which is anyone who has had three prior qualifying felonies in their lifetime prior to the new offense.

The sentencing, if you are classified as a habitual offender, is much more extreme when compared to the normal sentencing for the same crimes. If a “little” habitual enhancement is applied to your offense, the sentence is three times the usual maximum sentence for that offense. If a “big” habitual enhancement is applied, that number becomes four times the normal maximum sentence.

For example, normally, a class 3 felony offense carries the potential of 4-12 years in prison. If a “little” habitual enhancement is applied, that sentence becomes 36 years; if it is a big habitual, it becomes 48 years.

Prosecutors know these are large, scary numbers to face, and they can, and oftentimes, will use that to intimidate you into taking a worse deal.

Types of Habitual Offender Crime

Offenses that are subject to habitual offender enhancement are any Class 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 felony and any Class 1, 2, or 3 drug felony. Because of this, for habitual offenders, the crimes could include things like:

  • Murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Human trafficking
  • Arson
  • Use of a deadly weapon
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Sale of marijuana to a minor of more than 2 1/2 pounds
  • Distributing or sailing Schedule I or Schedule II drugs to a minor
  • Distributing or sailing over 225 g of Schedule I or Schedule II drugs

Because so many types of felonies fall into the Habitual Offender enhancement, these types of charges can get quite complicated. That is why it is so vital that you hire a felony defense attorney to represent you and help you understand the charges you may be facing.

Potential Defenses For Habitual Offender Charges

Facing a habitual offender status can be very scary, but there are still some defense options you could use in this situation. If the government has alleged you are a habitual offender, you have a right to a separate trial on just that allegation. Meaning even if you are convicted or plead guilty to your new offense, you can still make the government prove your prior convictions to a jury.

You may not qualify as a habitual offender, or the government may not have enough evidence to convict you of this. Here are some popular defenses your attorney may use to challenge habitual offender charges.

Challenge the Designation

A very popular defense for a habitual offender label is to challenge the designation. Your attorney may choose to do this if they want to argue that your prior convictions do not qualify for this category. Or they may argue that the court should exercise discretion in this instance depending on the details of your prior convictions, potentially lessening the sentence.

Your attorney could also argue that although the prior convictions qualify, they were still quite minor in comparison to worse crimes. For instance, you may have been involved in a robbery, but you were only an accomplice, not the person who led the crime.

Your attorney could also provide examples of how you have turned your life around and are less likely to re-offend.

Challenge Other Convictions

When you hire a skilled criminal defense attorney, part of your job is reviewing your prior convictions for your current case. This can be extremely helpful as they can spot any convictions that may not be legally valid.

Prior convictions may have legal loopholes such as invalid pleas, or there may have been an unconstitutional search and seizure that exceeded your rights. If your attorney can find any of these loopholes, they can challenge the conviction and potentially have it overturned. If this happens, this could cancel out the habitual offender status since you won’t have as many valid prior convictions.

An example of challenging other convictions is if the police searched your home without receiving a search warrant, which did not respect your rights.

Take a Plea Deal

In some instances, your attorney may be running out of options if they cannot challenge any of your prior convictions. If this is the case, they may decide to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor in the hopes of reducing the charges or avoiding the habitual offender status completely.

A plea deal could involve pleading guilty to one of the lesser charges or agreeing to a sentence that does not meet the habitual offender status. This can help you to avoid a harsher sentence while being convicted of lesser crimes.

Use Mitigating Evidence

Mitigating factors are very useful for attorneys who are arguing your case and trying to lower charges. Examples of mitigating evidence include things like a difficult childhood, addiction, mental health issues, etc.

Your attorney can use this evidence to argue your case to reduce the charges or lower your risk of a habitual offender status.

Hire an Experienced Attorney at The Law Offices of Clifton Black

Although a habitual offender status in Colorado is severe, there are ways you can go about fighting this. You may have been wrongly convicted of prior convictions, or your convictions do not meet the standards of a habitual offender.

At The Law Offices of Clifton Black, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of our clients and getting them the best result possible for their criminal charges. For empathetic and dedicated legal representation, contact us today at 719-328-1616 for a free consultation.

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For over 20 years we have represented clients in Colorado from a client-centered approach. We are experts within the areas of Cannabis Law, Criminal Defense, Family Law, and Business Law. We believe in protecting the rights of businesses and individuals with precision, exceeding client expectations with each case. Client satisfaction inspires us to strive for excellence in everything we do.

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Exceptional Experience & Results

For over 20 years we have represented clients in Colorado from a client-centered approach. We are experts within the areas of Cannabis Law, Criminal Defense, Family Law, and Business Law. We believe in protecting the rights of businesses and individuals with precision, exceeding client expectations with each case. Client satisfaction inspires us to strive for excellence in everything we do.

Schedule Your Consultation with a Trusted Attorney Today!

Need legal help in business or criminal areas in Colorado? Call Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC. Our expert attorneys focus in business law and criminal defense, providing clear advice for your specific needs. Benefit from our years of experience as we deliver targeted solutions and defend your rights every step of the way.