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The Impact of Criminal Charges: Jail Time and Job Loss

The Law Offices of Thomas W. Martin, LLC June 6, 2023

In Colorado, as in most states, criminal offenses are either misdemeanors or felonies. The number—one difference between the two is the severity and nature of the crime being charged, but in practical terms, the primary differentiating factor is potential time behind bars. Misdemeanors usually result in a maximum term of less than one year in jail, whereas felony convictions can run from one year to life in prison. 

Of course, if convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony, other consequences can ensue as well. There can be fines, community service, rehabilitative programs, and of course probation. You can also end up with a criminal if convicted, and this record will haunt you potentially for the rest of your life, making employment, public benefits, and even housing difficult to obtain, as well as becoming a bar to certain professional licensing. 

If you are under investigation for a criminal charge, or worse are facing a charge, in or around Fort Collins, Colorado, contact me at The Law Offices of Thomas W. Martin, LLC. I have more than a decade’s experience as a criminal defense attorney for adults and juveniles, and I dedicate myself to evaluating your case and advising you of your legal options. I will also advise you of all possible direct and indirect consequences you may face. And of course, I will aggressively defend you if matters go to court. 

In addition to Fort Collins, my firm also proudly serves and protects clients’ rights throughout Larimer County and Weld County, including Loveland, Wellington, Estes Park, Johnstown, Windsor, and Greeley. 

Different Penalties for Different Charges: Potential for Jail Time

In addition to misdemeanors and felonies, Colorado also has laws regarding petty offenses and infractions. Infractions are usually just violations of traffic codes or some municipal or county ordinance that result in fines only. 

Petty offenses, similar to misdemeanors and felonies, are divided into classes. Petty offenses are the least serious on Colorado’s criminal code, but even littering public or private property, a Class 1 petty offense, can result in a fine of up to $500 and/or six months in jail. Class 2 petty offenses carry lighter sentences. 

There are also two classes of misdemeanors characterized by the penalties that can result: Class 1 and Class 2. Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 354 days in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 fine, and Class 2 by up to 120 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $750.  

Examples of Class 1 misdemeanors include theft of property valued from $1,000 to less than $2,000, as well as criminal mischief and indecent exposure. Class 2 examples include criminal tampering and theft of property valued at less than $1,000. 

There are six classes of felonies ranging from Class 1 with the most severe penalties, including life in prison, to Class 6 felonies. Even conviction for a Class 6 felony, depending on the crime, can result in one to four years in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000. 

So, when it comes to felonies, you face serious odds, even at the lowest rung of the ladder. For a Class 1 felony charge, you must commit or attempt murder, kidnap someone, or commit treason. In the middle of the pack, a Class 3 felony is punishable by 4 to 32 years in prison, along with a potential fine of $3,000 to $750,000. Crimes include first-degree burglary, first-degree arson, aggravated robbery, and sex trafficking. 

Colorado maintains a separate table for drug violations, which uses the term Level instead of Class. A Level 1 drug felony can result in 8 to 32 years in prison, along with a maximum fine of $1 million. Level 4, the lowest, carries a penalty of from 6 months to 2 years in jail or prison, and/or a fine of up to $100,000. 

How Sentences Are Determined

A judge, when issuing a sentence, will take into consideration several factors, including of course the penalties associated with the crime. Other factors include the individual’s character and whether there are previous offenses.  

The judge can use what is called determinant sentencing, meaning to employ the prescribed penalties established by the legislature, which is also known as a fixed sentence term. Other options include, and usually are combined together in some form: 

  • incarceration 

  • probation 

  • community corrections programs 

  • home detention programs 

  • specialized restitution and community service programs 

  • restorative justice 

  • payment of fines, fees, costs, and restitution 

A judge will sometimes order what is called felony probation, in which the sentence is suspended and terms of probation are set. If the terms are violated, the person will then face the full set of penalties that were suspended.  

Because of the serious effects of a charge, getting the support of a skilled criminal defense attorney can make all the difference. 

The Impact on Job Security

Colorado is an at-will employment state, meaning your employer can terminate you for any cause or even no cause. Likewise, you as an employee can quit for no reason or any reason. If there is a written agreement or contract in place, then the at-will nature of employment may be put on the back burner. If that’s the case, the employer may insert clauses regarding your behavior that can void the agreement. 

In an at-will environment, if your employer learns of your charge or conviction, which they can because it all becomes a matter of easily accessible public records, they may terminate you. In addition, your criminal or arrest record will stay will you as you go forward in life. 

Most employers ask on their job applications if you’ve ever committed a crime or been charged with one. Since they have access to your criminal record, you have to answer yes, which may well doom your chances. Your criminal record can also limit or doom your chances for professional licensing, obtaining housing, or even going to college.  

The Importance of Strong Legal Representation

Depending on the type of crime for which you’re under investigation, or have already been charged, the consequences can be pretty severe. Even six months in county jail is not something most people want to contemplate. Also, because a criminal record in your name will likely ensue, you can face rough sledding in life going forward. 

Before you even answer questions from police or prosecutors—remember, “You have the right to remain silent”—contact me at The Law Offices of Thomas W. Martin, LLC. I understand and empathize with the position you find yourself in. I will treat you with the utmost concern and compassion, and treat your case with the utmost dedication. Reach out immediately if you’re in or around Fort Collins, Colorado, and need defense representation.