A Proven Criminal Defense Team

Can you get a life sentence for being present during a murder?

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2024 | Crimes of Violence |

Colorado has long been strict when it comes to serious charges, such as murder. Some murder charges carry an automatic life sentence. This means that if a person is ever convicted, the court has no other option but to send them to jail for life. In fact, many who are convicted may not even be given the option of parole.

For many years, anyone who was present risked being given an automatic life sentence. For example, perhaps three people were involved in a drug deal gone wrong, and one of them was killed. Only one offender pulled the trigger, but the other person may also have been given life behind bars just for being part of the deadly event.

However, this recently changed in 2021. Automatic life sentences are no longer used for those who are convicted of being present during a murder. They are only used for those who are convicted of carrying it out.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

When the governor was asked about the change to the law, he said that the goal was to ensure that the punishments people were handed fit the actual crimes they committed. He noted that someone who was involved in the murder was still responsible and still guilty. This change doesn’t absolve them of guilt.

But he was also careful to point out that it’s very different to be in the room while a murder takes place than it is to actually pull the trigger during that intentional act. Someone who was merely present could get a long sentence, ranging from 16 years to 48 years behind bars, but they wouldn’t automatically get life without parole.

If you are facing these types of serious charges, be sure you know what defense options you have.