Colorado’s Harsh Penalties for Sex Crime Convictions

There are few things as eye-opening as being charged with a crime. Just knowing that you could be facing prison time can be a scary thought to someone who has no experience with the criminal justice system. Not knowing what to do next or where to turn can leave a person completely unprepared to protect their rights.

But not all crimes are created equal, as certain charges by their very nature carry serious potential consequences. Most sex crimes fit into this category, as the Colorado legislature has created very specific sentences that must be imposed if someone is found guilty, especially if the victim is a child.

Conviction Results in Minimum of Ten Years Behind Bars

Travis Masse was recently sentenced after being convicted of sexual assault on a child "pattern of behavior," meaning it happened more than once, and sexual assault on a child by someone in a position of trust. He was a teacher and wrestling coach at an area high school, and was found to have been having sexual relationships with underage girls at the school. The investigation also uncovered evidence of sexting, with both Masse and one of the victims texting nude pictures to one another.

When the sentence was announced, Masse received a sentence of at least 10 years in the department of corrections (state prison), and if he is ever paroled, he would remain on parole for the rest of his natural life. If at the end of the initial ten-year sentence, officials determine that he has not been fully "rehabilitated", they may keep Masse in prison until they feel he is not likely to reoffend, or for the rest of his natural life, whatever happens sooner.

Possibility of Life in Prison

In Colorado, sex crimes are broken down into specific classes, depending upon the level of seriousness. Each class carries a specific minimum sentence. In most other crimes, there will be a mandatory release date tied to whatever sentence that is handed down, but that is not the case with most felony sex crimes. Those convicted of sex crimes will be required to serve the entire minimum sentence that they receive to start, but then may end up serving for the rest of their life as well. In other words, most felony sex crimes have a definite minimum punishment, but are not limited to what a possible maximum punishment may be. They can go on and on and on for life.

After the offender has served the required minimum length of his or her sentence, it will be up to the parole board to determine if the offender still presents a danger to society. The board will examine the offender's progress in treatment, as well as the offender's likelihood of reoffending. If there is any potential question about whether or not the offender has been rehabilitated, officials are to err on the side of caution and refuse to grant parole.

More often than not, the offender is required to serve more time because parole is denied. When this happens, the board reviews the case once every three years to check for progress. This cycle can repeat itself as many times as the parole board deems necessary, meaning that the offender may spend life in prison.

It could be very difficult, if not impossible, for an offender to gain parole due to the negative implications of being convicted of a sex crime. Officials are under great pressure to be absolutely positive that there is no chance a sex offender will commit another sex crime before the board can sign off on a release, which is a chance many are unwilling to take. Even if all treatment has been completed, the board may still refuse parole.

Even though there is a system in place if parole is granted, there are still very strict requirements in place for a parolee. If convicted of a class 2, class 3, or class 4 felony sex crime, offenders will be on a supervised parole period for the rest of their natural life upon being released from prison. That is, if they are ever released from prison.

After release, those convicted will need to register as a sex offender. They will be required to notify law enforcement whenever they move. Finding employment could also be very challenging, as employers will be reluctant to take a chance on someone who has been convicted of such a serious crime.

What to do if You Have Been Accused of a Sex Crime

Do not talk to the police. Law enforcement officials are focused on proving their case, and they are speaking to you for a very specific reason. If you suspect you are being investigated, do not think you can talk yourself out of trouble. Police will use anything you say against you if you are eventually charged. They want you to talk; to do their job for them.

If you have been accused of a sex crime, you need to take the accusations very seriously. A conviction could leave you facing serious prison time, and will also make it extremely difficult for you to move forward after being released. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area to understand how to best defend yourself against these charges.