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When Can You Seek Probation instead of Jail or Prison Time in Colorado?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP August 9, 2022

When a person is convicted of a crime, a jail sentence is always on the table. The thought of this is incredibly daunting for most people, and it’s unsurprising that people often wonder if there is an alternative to being imprisoned. In some circumstances, you might be eligible for probation instead of a jail sentence. There are many conditions that can go along with being sentenced to probation, such as drug testing, anger management classes, monetary fines, and community service, to name a few. Regardless, this is almost always preferable to a jail sentence. In Colorado, there are very specific rules and regulations regarding who can be sentenced to probation instead of a jail term.

Felony Probation

In Colorado, felony probation is available as an alternative to a jail sentence in many situations. Felony probation can be imposed after you are found guilty at trial, or through a guilty plea. The most important factor is the level of the crime you were convicted of and your prior criminal history. 

Almost every defendant is eligible for felony probation, with the exception of the following:

  • Those convicted of a Class 1 felony
  • Those convicted of a class 2 Petty offense
  • Those who have been convicted of two or more felonies in Colorado or any other part of the country

To be more specific, if you’re convicted of any of the following crimes, you cannot receive a probation sentence instead of jail time:

  • Murder – first or second degree
  • Manslaughter
  • Assault – first or second degree
  • Kidnapping – first or second degree
  • Sexual assault
  • First degree arson
  • Burglary – first or second degree 
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Theft from another person
  • Any crime committed against a child that is a felony
  • Attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the crimes listed above

The Judge Decides

The fact that you are eligible for probation does not mean you automatically receive this sentence instead of a jail or prison term. Ultimately, the judge decides what sentence to hand out. Whether you receive probation or a harsher sentence is usually dependent on several factors, such as the severity of the crime, your prior criminal history, your level of remorse and accountability, the prosecutor’s recommendation, and what you have going on in your work and home life. There is no objective formula for deciding if you will receive probation, and it’s possible that one judge could sentence you to probation and another judge could sentence someone who committed the exact same crime to be imprisoned. 

Common Conditions of Felony Probation

If you’re fortunate enough to receive a probation sentence instead of jail time, there will be certain conditions you must follow. Some of the most common conditions that are imposed include the following:

  • Electronic monitoring
  • Regularly reporting to a probation officer
  • Remain arrest free
  • No firearms
  • Drug testing
  • Maintain employment
  • Vocational training
  • Anger management classes
  • Community service
  • Fines

If you don’t abide by the rules the judge sets forth, you can be taken back into custody and resentenced to jail time. If you were arrested or convicted of a crime or you’ve been accused of violating your probation and you need help, our Boulder criminal defense lawyers are always here for you. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.