Visit Our Blog
    Read Out Blog
    Case Evaluation
    Charged With A Crime?

    Juvenile Criminal Sentencing In Colorado – Aggravated – Violent – Repeat – Mandatory Sentencing Laws – and Sealing a Colorado Juvenile Record

    By Colorado Juvenile Sentencing Specialist Lawyer – H. Michael Steinberg

    Colorado Juvenile law is very very different from Colorado Adult criminal law. Often parents and the juveniles themselves are confused about whether they can be incarcerated, for how long, and what will happen to their criminal records?  This article addresses the possibilities that are given to the Judge in sentencing Colorado juveniles – accused and adjudicated for juvenile crimes.

    The Colorado Children’s Code contains a short statement of the GOALS of the Colorado Juvenile Code

    It is critical to interpret a Juvenile Judge’s sentence in the context of these GOALS. 

    Title 19 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS)

    The purposes of the Children’s Code are set forth at CRS §19-1-102(1) as follows:

    1. To secure for each child subject to these provisions such care and guidance, preferably in his or her own home, as will best serve his welfare and the interests of society;

    2. To preserve and strengthen family ties whenever possible, including improvement of home environment;

    3. To remove a child from the custody of his or her parents only when his welfare and safety or the protection of the public would otherwise be endangered and, in either instance, for the courts to proceed with all possible speed to a legal determination that will best serve the best interests of the child; and

    4. To secure for any child removed from the custody of his or her parents the necessary care, guidance, and discipline to assist him or her in becoming a responsible and productive member of society. 

    After The Arrest of A Juvenile – Custody and Detention

    Young people who are taken into custody and formally referred to a juvenile court are entitled to an initial hearing on the validity of their arrest and detention. At this initial hearing, the state must generally prove two things: that an offense was committed and that there is reasonable cause to believe that the accused committed it. If the state wants to further detain the juvenile, it must prove that the juvenile is a danger to himself or herself or others, is likely to run away if released, or has a past record that warrants detention.

    If the juvenile does not have an attorney, the court usually assigns one at this time and set a date within seventy-two hours excluding weekends and court holidays for a petition in delinquency to be filed.

    A juvenile can be arrested and detained if it is alleged that he or she has committed a delinquent act. If the juvenile is not released after law enforcement officials obtain basic identifying information and contact the juvenile’s parent, guardian or legal custodian, the juvenile is entitled to have a detention hearing before a judge to determine if he or she is to be further detained. This hearing must occur within forty-eight hours, excluding weekends and court holidays. At this hearing, the judge has the following options:

    1. that the juvenile be released to the custody of a parent, guardian, or legal or physical custodian, with or without the posting of a bond (as part of the conditions of release, many juveniles are sent home on an ankle monitor where they are more or less under house arrest);

    2. that the juvenile be placed in a shelter facility or placed with the county Department of Human Services in lieu of a bond;

    3. the juvenile may be released on summons

    4. the bond be denied and that the juvenile be detained upon a determination that he or she is a danger to him or herself or to the community. Those situations where there is a presumption that a juvenile is a danger to self or the community includes felonies that involve violent acts and violations involving weapons. The delinquency petition detailing the charges against the juvenile must be filed within 72 hours of the detention hearing.

    The Colorado Juvenile Advisement Hearing

    Once a delinquency petition is filed, the juvenile and his parent or guardian are told in writing to come to court where the juvenile is advised of his constitutional and legal rights and asked to enter a plea to the charges in the petition.


    A juvenile may enter a plea of guilty which must be done knowingly and voluntarily, meaning that he or she understands all of his or her rights and is freely giving up those rights. A guilty plea will not be accepted by the court if the juvenile is being forced or coerced to plead guilty or if the juvenile is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any thing else which could impair his or her judgment.

    A juvenile may enter a plea of not guilty and set the matter for trial before a judge or a magistrate. A juvenile is entitled to a jury trial only where he or she is alleged to be a violent juvenile offender or an aggravated juvenile offender. An aggravated juvenile offender is one who is adjudicated for a very serious felony (i.e. murder) or has previously been adjudicated for a felony and is adjudicated for a crime of violence or is adjudicated for felonious unlawful sexual behavior.

    Following a plea of guilty or a finding of guilt at trial, the court can enter an order adjudicating a juvenile to be a delinquent. The court could also enter an order deferring the entry of an order of adjudication on certain conditions with the consent of the prosecutor. In juvenile delinquency cases, the term “adjudication” is the equivalent of the term “conviction” for adults.

    The Sentencing of a Colorado Juvenile – Delinquency Sentencing

    Here is the crux of this article.  What follows are the general sentencing OPTIONS that are available to the Judge when a juvenile has been adjudicated for ANY juvenile crime.

    At the sentencing hearing, the judge has a wide range of sentencing options including one or more of the following:

    1. Commitment of the juvenile to the Department of Human Services for a period not in excess of two years for most juveniles, but up to seven years for the most serious offenders. Commitment also includes a mandatory period of parole of at least six months.

    2. If the juvenile is eighteen years of age or older at the time of sentencing, the judge can sentence him or her to county jail or to community corrections.

    3. Detention for up to forty-five days.

    4. Placement with a relative or other suitable person or into the custody of the county department of social services.

    5. Probation

    6. Placement in a hospital.

    7. Imposition of a fine.

    8. Order the juvenile to reimburse any victims for damages caused by the juvenile (i.e., restitution).

    Sentencing To Juvenile Probation

    When a juvenile delinquent is granted probation, the juvenile court may release the juvenile from probation or modify the terms and conditions of probation at any time. However, any juvenile who has complied satisfactorily with the terms and conditions of the probation for a period of two years shall be released from probation, and the jurisdiction of the court shall be terminated.

    Colorado Juveniles Prosecuted and/or Tried as Adults

    There are two ways that a juvenile offender may be tried as an adult. The first way is by “transfer” and the second way is by “direct file.” The transfer method is where the case is first filed in the juvenile court and then the district attorney requests a hearing so that the juvenile judge may decide if the case should be transferred to district court which is where adult cases are heard.

    The factors that the juvenile judge considers in making this decision include the age and maturity of the juvenile and the seriousness and circumstances of the alleged crime. The transfer method is not widely used as district attorneys will bypass the juvenile court and use the direct file method whenever possible.

    The direct file method permits the case against the juvenile offender to be filed in the district court without the permission of the juvenile judge when the juvenile is fourteen years of age or older and is alleged to have committed certain serious offenses. The type of offenses include class 1 or class 2 felonies (such as first-degree murder), “crimes of violence” (such as the more serious assaults, robberies, burglaries and arsons), serious weapons offenses, vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. The direct file statute also provides that when a juvenile has one or more prior felonies on his or her record, a direct file is available even if the present offense is not as serious as those described above.

    But see recent – 2012 changes to the Colorado Direct File Laws CLICK HERE

    What are the classifications of juvenile delinquents?

    There are several different levels of juvenile offenders.  These classifications affect procedure, sentencing, and eligibility for expungement. Here is a brief summary of the classifications: Mandatory sentence offenders are juveniles who have two previous delinquency adjudications or have been previously adjudicated delinquent and had probation revoked for another delinquent act.

    Repeat juvenile offenders are those with a previous delinquency adjudication who are then adjudicated delinquent or have probation revoked for a felony. Habitual juvenile offenders are juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent twice for separate felonious acts in different criminal episodes.

    Violent juvenile offenders have been adjudicated delinquent for certain acts of violence. Aggravated juvenile offenders are those juveniles adjudicated delinquent for or who have had probation revoked for certain felonious acts or certain unlawful sexual behavior.

    Habitual juvenile offenders are juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent twice for separate felonious acts in different criminal episodes.

    Colorado Mandatory Sentence Offenders Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-2-516(1) 

    A mandatory juvenile offender meets any of the following criteria:

    He or she was adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent twice or has been adjudicated a juvenile delinquent, and if his or her probation has been revoked for a delinquent act, and is subsequently adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent. The court will take anyone classified as a mandatory juvenile offender out of the home for at least a year unless the court finds that an alternative sentence of a commitment of less than one year out of the home would be more appropriate. However, the court may reduce that sentence if the juvenile can show exemplary behavior.

    Colorado Repeat Juvenile Offender -Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-2-516(2)

    A repeat juvenile offender meets the following criteria:

    When he or she has been adjudicated a juvenile delinquent and is adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for a delinquent act that constitutes a felony, or if his or her probation is revoked for a delinquent act that constitutes a felony. A repeat offender could be sentenced to the Colorado Department of Human Services for a minimal term.

    Colorado Violent Juvenile Offender – Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-2-516(3)

    A violent juvenile offender must be at least 13 years old and must be adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for a delinquent act that constitutes a crime of violence. A violent juvenile offender may also be sentenced to the Colorado Department of Human Services for a minimal term.

    “Crime of violence” includes: use or possession of a deadly weapon; causing serious bodily injury or death to any other person; murder; first or second degree assault; kidnapping; sexual offenses; aggravated robbery; arson; burglary; escape; or criminal extortion; Colo. Rev. Stat. §18-1.3-406(2)(a)(2010).

    Colorado Aggravated Juvenile Offender – Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-2-516(4)

    An aggravated juvenile offender meets one of these requirements:

    He or she is at least 12 years old and is adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for a delinquent act that constitutes a class 1 or class 2 felony. He or she has had probation revoked for a delinquent act that constitutes a class 1 or class 2 felony.

    An aggravated juvenile offender may be placed into the Colorado Department of Corrections for five years.

    Habitual juvenile offenders – Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-1-103(61)

    Habitual juvenile offender, as used in section 19-2-517, means a juvenile offender who has previously been twice adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for separate delinquent acts, arising out of separate and distinct criminal episodes, that constitute felonies. 

    Expungement of Juvenile Records In Colorado

    In many instances, those who have juvenile records can apply to get those records expunged. Expungement means that the records are deemed to have never existed. Once expungement occurs, a juvenile can honestly answer that he or she has no juvenile record. Despite an expungement order, law enforcement (police and district attorney) retains certain information about the juvenile’s record and this information may be used against the person in the event of any future criminal violations.

    For example, under Colorado law, a prior adjudication may be used in future sentencing or bond setting. A juvenile is eligible to petition the court for an order of expungement after a certain period of time has passed since the juvenile’s case has ended. In most cases, this period is four years, but it can be as long as ten years. In the most serious cases involving crimes of violence, unlawful sexual behavior or where a juvenile is tried and convicted as an adult, those records can never be expunged.

    You ARE eligible to Petition for an expungement order if:

    1. Immediately, you are found not guilty at trial.

    2. After one year, you are given a ticket or are arrested, but no further action was taken; or you completed a juvenile diversion program or informal adjustment.

    3. After four years, the Court has terminated jurisdiction; or you are unconditionally released from commitment to the department of human services; or you are unconditionally released from parole supervision.

    4. After ten years, you have been adjudicated a repeat or mandatory juvenile offender, and the Court has terminated jurisdiction or you are unconditionally released from parole supervision, whichever date is later.

    You are NOT eligible to Petition for an expungement order if:

    1. You were adjudicated for an offense involving unlawful sexual behavior as defined in §16-22-102(9), C.R.S.; or

    2. You were adjudicated an aggravated juvenile offender; or

    3. You were adjudicated a violent juvenile offender; or

    4. You were adjudicated for an offense that would be a crime of violence if committed by an adult;


    5. You were charged by the direct filing of an indictment or information in district court as a juvenile.

    Anyone with a juvenile delinquency record in Colorado has the right to petition for expungement, except for those adjudicated or convicted of certain acts, aggravated juvenile offenders, and violent juvenile offenders.[48]  Expungement allows the juvenile, agencies, and the court to say that no record exists.[49]  The court must either advise juveniles of this right at the time of adjudication or initiate expungement proceedings on its own.[50]

     How does a juvenile expunge one’s record?

    A person initiates the process by filing a no-fee petition for an order of expungement in the appropriate juvenile court.  After a hearing, the court may in its discretion expunge all relevant juvenile records held by the court or any administrative agency or official. In certain circumstances, however, the court cannot grant an order of expungement.

    Who has access to sealed or expunged court records?

    While most people or agencies wishing to access expunged juvenile records must show good cause and obtain a court order, basic identification information and a list of agencies and officials involved with the juvenile remain available to the Department of Human Services, local law enforcement agencies, and district attorneys. The full record also remains available to any judge or probation department engaged in sentencing the person in a future proceeding.

    Rights of juveniles have in Colorado delinquency cases?

    Juveniles have the following rights in court:

    A six-member jury trial if charged with a crime of violence or an alleged aggravated juvenile offender.

    Confidentiality of their juvenile records.

    All rights associated with regular courts, such as the right to a speedy trial, the right to counsel, etc.

    For Juvenile Criminal Cases – Please Call:

    H. Michael Steinberg has been a Colorado criminal law specialist attorney for 29 years. For the First 13 years of his career, he was an Arapahoe – Douglas County District Attorney Senior  prosecutor. In 1999 he formed his own law firm for the defense of Colorado criminal cases. In addition to handling tens of thousands of cases in the trial courts of Colorado, he has written hundreds of articles regarding the practice of Colorado criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on the Fox News Channel, CNN and Various National and Local Newspapers and Radio Stations.  Please call him at your convenience at 720-220-2277. 



    Other Articles of Interest:

    If you found the information provided on this webpage to be helpful, please click my Plus+1 button so that others may also find it.

    H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
    Attorney and Counselor at Law
    The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
    A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
    Colorado Criminal Law For Over 40 Years.
    The Edward Building
    8400 East Prentice Ave, Penthouse 1500
    Greenwood Village, Colorado, 80111
    E-Mail:  [email protected]
    Primary Web Site:
    Colorado Criminal Law Blog:
    Main:  303.627.7777
    Cell:  720.220.2277
    24/7 Pager:  303.543.4433
    FAX (Toll Free):  1.877.533.6276
    Always investigate a lawyer's qualifications and experience before making a
    decision to retain that lawyer or, for that matter, any professional any field.