You may have heard it said that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” In Colorado, being mistaken about the criminal laws is no excuse for breaking them – except in one very specific situation, known as “mistake of law.”

A “mistake of law” defense relies on a confusion about whether a particular act is allowed or prohibited by law. “Mistake of law” can’t be used to defend a lack of knowledge about what the law is. However, this defense can be used if two laws, rules, or regulations conflict about whether an act is permitted or not. Specifically, a “mistake of law” defense may be used if:

  • the act is permitted by a valid Colorado statute or ordinance,
  • the act is permitted by a valid Colorado administrative regulation, order, or grant of permission from an official who has the power to give such permission under law, or
  • the act is permitted by a valid, written interpretation of a Colorado law, which comes from a person, agency, or court with the power and responsibility of interpreting such laws. Interpretations from courts must be made by courts whose decisions are legally binding in Colorado.

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gun-bullets-8716296.jpgBoth the state of Colorado and the U.S. federal government have several laws in place that govern who can possess which types of firearms, where, and under what circumstances. Other U.S. states have their own rules. Because many of these rules overlap, ensuring you don’t violate any of them can be a tricky business.

According to one analysis by the Associated Press, the combination of local, county, state, and federal firearm regulations adds up to thousands of rules about gun possession nationwide. An analysis by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives recently concluded that in many places, these rules change not only from state to state but sometimes from place to place within a single state.
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In a Colorado criminal case, one or more possible defenses may come into play. One pair of defenses that are related is the defense of “mistake of fact” and “mistake of law.” Although these defenses often do not apply to a particular case, they may apply if the legal conditions for using either defense are met.

A “mistake of fact” occurs when the person charged with a crime only acted because he or she thought the conduct was legal – but turned out to be wrong about that. Usually, mistake of fact is not a defense to a criminal charge in Colorado, unless:

  • the mistake of fact negates the state of mind required to commit the crime,
  • the statute that prohibits the criminal behavior specifies that a mistake of fact is a defense to being charged under the statute, or
  • the mistake of fact supports a justification defense.

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A new smartphone app created by a professor at the University of California-Riverside may make it easier for passersby to report drivers whom they believe are driving drunk, according to a recent report in ITWorld.

The app, called “DUICam,” is meant to be used with a dashboard mount for an iPhone or Android device. The phone is mounted to the dashboard and records video of everything that goes on in front of the vehicle. Every 30 minutes, the app automatically deletes the video so that the phone’s memory isn’t overwhelmed – but, if a driver suspects that another person on the road is impaired, he or she can save the video. The app also allows drivers to zoom in and examine license plate numbers and other markings when reporting suspected drunk drivers to police.
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Colorado already has a number of laws in place that prohibit driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI/DWI), and the penalties that follow a conviction of violating these laws can be severe. With the recent voter-approved changes in Colorado’s marijuana laws, however, the state is considering how to handle marijuana use by drivers.

Unlike Washington, which also legalized the use of small amounts of marijuana in 2012, Colorado law does not currently set a maximum amount of THC that a driver may not have in his or her system while operating a motor vehicle. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active ingredient in marijuana. This method is similar to that used in all 50 U.S. states for drunk driving, in which the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08 percent.
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The preliminary hearing in a Colorado criminal case occurs after arraignment, where the accused person learns what he or she has been charged with, and before the trial, where the prosecution must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether “probable cause” exists to send the case to the trial court.

Coloradoans who have been charged with certain types of crimes have a statutory right to a preliminary hearing. An experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney can help you understand which category you’re in and make sure you get a hearing if entitled to one.
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Part of obtaining a firearm legally in Colorado is undergoing the state’s required background check, as any experienced Colorado gun crime defense attorney can readily explain. If you’re waiting for the results of a background check in 2013, however, you may be waiting longer than usual.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) reports that its waiting list for background checks is over 11,000 applications long – making the average wait time for a background check to be completed approximately nine days. This queue and the wait are longer than average, and nearly double what they were in the last weeks of 2012, when the average wait was about 100 hours. Because the CBI’s website “wait clock” only reports wait times up to 99 hours, the agency has been keeping track of wait times manually.
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Like most states, Colorado has laws that make “domestic violence” a specific crime, separate from similar crimes like assault. Because domestic violence can carry more severe penalties in Colorado than similar convictions can, it’s important to understand how Colorado’s domestic violence statute works.

Colorado law defines “domestic violence” generally as:

  • “An act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship,” or
  • A crime or ordinance violation against a person, property, or an animal, “when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge” against a person with whom the actor shares an intimate relationship.

Because Colorado’s domestic violence laws depend on the existence of an “intimate relationship,” it’s important to know what the law means when it uses that phrase. Colorado law defines an “intimate relationship” in the domestic violence context as a relationship between:

  • Spouses;
  • Former spouses;
  • Unmarried people who were or are in a relationship; or
  • The parents of a child, whether or not the parents ever lived together or were ever married.

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If you’ve been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) in Colorado, one of the possible penalties you face if you’re convicted is the requirement of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. An ignition interlock device attaches to your car’s ignition. It requires the driver to give a breath sample, and the sample must be free of alcohol – otherwise the car will not start.

The cost of installing, monitoring, and removing an ignition interlock device is typically paid by the person required to use it, and the costs can be steep. If you’re facing DUI charges in Colorado, it’s important to know when an ignition interlock device might be required and to discuss your case with an attorney in order to understand your rights and prepare an aggressive defense.

Colorado currently requires an ignition interlock device for eight months after a person is convicted of a first DUI, or two years if the person is convicted of a “high BAC” DUI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.17 or greater. Two years using the device are also required for a second or third DUI conviction. For people designated “habitual offenders,” the device may be required for four years.
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Colorado’s juvenile court system handles criminal charges brought against “juveniles,” or people under age 18. Like adults charged with Colorado crimes, juveniles also have a right to be represented by an attorney.

The goals of juvenile cases often differ from the goals for an adult criminal case. Although both hold proceedings to determine whether the charged person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in adult cases the purpose of the sentence is generally to punish the person if he or she is found guilty. In juvenile court, however, the goal is to teach, train, or rehabilitate the child as well as to hold him or her responsible for misbehaving.


The difference in goals leads to several differences in how a juvenile case goes forward. For instance, in many juvenile cases, the child’s parents or guardians are also required to attend court hearings and to help carry out any sentence or treatment the court requires. If the parents or guardians aren’t able or willing to get involved, the court may appoint another person, known as a “guardian ad litem,” to act in the parent’s or guardian’s place.
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