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Colorado Capital Punishment Laws

Capital punishment, also known as "the death penalty," remains a legal sentence under Colorado laws for certain crimes. Colorado has executed a total of 101 people in its history (all of them male and for the offense of murder). However, since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1978, the state has only executed one person in 1997 and is considered a "de facto" non-capital punishment state.

That being said, Colorado jurors still have the ability to impose the death penalty. However, the number of cases in which it can be used is limited as it only applies to class 1 felony cases involving certain murders, kidnapping, or treason. Generally, prosecutors must be able to establish at least one aggravating factor in order for the death penalty to apply. These factors can apply to murders which involve:

  • The death of a peace officer, firefighter, emergency services provider, judge, elected official, or federal law enforcement agent;
  • The death of a child under 12;
  • Dynamite or other explosive devices;
  • Pecuniary gain;
  • Especially heinous, cruel or depraved conduct; or
  • Extreme indifference to human life.

Capital Punishment Statutes in Colorado: An Overview

To some extent, states are permitted to have their own capital punishment laws: 18 states have banned capital punishment, and 32 states have death penalty laws in place. The following table outlines Colorado's capital punishment laws.


Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-3-107 (allowing the death penalty in cases of first degree murder of a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical service provider)

Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-3-301 (allowing the death penalty in cases of first degree kidnapping)

Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-1.3-1201 (requiring a sentencing hearing to determine whether to apply the death penalty in class 1 felony cases)

Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-1.3-1402 (prohibiting the death penalty due to mental incompetence)

Is Capital Punishment Allowed?

Yes for Class 1 felonies.

Effect of Defendant's Incapacity

This is a mitigating factor which can suspend or reduce a sentence.

Minimum Age

Age is mitigating factor (no one under 18 can be executed) (Sullivan v. People, 111 Colo. 205, 139 P.2d 876 (1943))

Allowable For Crimes Other Than Homicide?

First Degree Kidnapping (if victim has been injured, but defendant will not be sentenced to death if victim is liberated alive prior to the conviction of kidnapper)


Method Of Execution

Lethal Injection

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for Colorado Capital Punishment Laws:

Don't Go it Alone: Get Legal Help With Your Criminal Case

If you're facing trial for murder or kidnapping in Colorado, you could be facing a jury that has the authority to impose the death penalty on you. It's critical that you understand all of the rights and processes afforded to you, which is why you need a strong criminal defense attorney in your corner. Regardless of the seriousness of your charges, you probably will want to consult with a Colorado defense attorney.

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