Issues when Handling Multiple Charges of Assault in Denver

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Often, when an individual has been charged with an assault offense in Denver, the prosecutor may add additional charges as the case progresses. It is common for offenses such as harassment to get added to a case involving 3rd degree assault. Similarly, you may see charges of 2nd degree assault with a lesser charge of 3rd degree assault.

One of the problems with these additional charges is that the often have different requirements whose distinctions will be lost on the jury. For example, in the case of Arellano v. People, 174 Colo. 456, 484 P.2d 801 (1971),

In that case, the facts were as follows:

The defendant had been involved in a verbal argument at a club, with both an employee and the owner, while drunk. He was escorted outside and picked up by a police car, at which point he threatened to’ get’ all three of them. The following day, the defendant attacked the owner causing a laceration to his mouth, while he was walking to his car in the night, and held the victim at gunpoint. He then held the victim in the victim’s car for 30 minutes, with the gun against the victim’s chest. In this case, the defendant was convicted of assault and appealed the conviction.

One of the defendant’s primary arguments on appeal was that the jury instructions regarding two charges had confused the jury. The instructions in question were regarding the mental state that was required of the defendant to have committed the crime. Essentially, one of the charges was a “specific intent” crime while the other was a “general intent” crime. The basic difference between the two is that a specific intent crime typically requires that the defend intended to commit the criminal action. In a general intent crime, the crime typically requires that the defendant intended to commit an action which resulted in a crime. With a general intent crime, there is no requirement that the particular outcome be the outcome that the person desired.

With regard to the instructions that had been given, the issue claimed by the defendant was that the court had instructed the jury on both ‘specific intent’ and ‘general intent’ which he alleged might have confused the jury. What this essentially meant was that the jury was instructed not only on the offense of assault with a deadly weapon causing injury, but also on simple assault as a lesser included offense. The risk of error here is that the mental state required for the assault with a deadly weapon charge may have confused the jury with regard to the simple assault charge, and vice versa. The court held that the jury instructions were not improper, but was rather instructions for each of the offenses individually.

The judgment was affirmed.

Do you believe that such instructions on two different degrees of the same offence should be given to the jury, or do you think court should simply focus only on one? As seen in this case, while some elements of different degrees of the same offence may overlap, the mens rea would differ. This is why the jury was instructed on both specific and general intent. It is ultimately up to the jury to decide on the verdict based on the facts and evidence presented.

This case raises two important issues for defense attorneys. The first is that a defense attorney needs to anticipate different elements of each offense charged and help the jury understand those differences – most often through closing arguments. Second, it is important that the defense attorney craft alternative jury instructions that capture the differences between the two crimes in a way that the jury can understand and explain to the judge why his proposed jury instructions are better than the ones that are being proposed by the prosecutor.

This is a highly technical area of the law. As such, a Denver assault attorney is the right person for you to talk with if you are dealing with a technical aspect of your case such as this one,so that you can understand the nature of your assault charges and so that you understand the ways that may be available to you to strengthen your case. Your Assault Attorney in Denver will be able to define and explain the differences in your charges, with all its elements, which will be particularly helpful if you have been charged with assault.


The information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as the creation of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney.

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Nathaniel has worked in criminal law on both sides of the aisle spending time working for the prosecution as well as the defense. Most recently Nathaniel has represented individuals in violent felonies and drug cases. Prior to this work, Nathaniel handled DWIs, Domestic Violence Cases, Property Crimes, and White Collar Crimes. On the prosecutorial side, Nathaniel has most notably worked in Bosnia helping to prosecute individuals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Bosnian War from 1993-1995. In particular, Nathaniel helped in the prosecution of military leaders who arranged for the organized murders and rapes of innocent civilians in various towns in Bosnia. Nathaniel is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Northwestern University, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Google Profile: Nathaniel Baca