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Colorado Manslaughter Laws

Many states divide manslaughter into voluntary manslaughter (a killing during a sudden "heat of passion") and involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide (accidental killings). However, Colorado doesn't do this. Instead, in Colorado, voluntary manslaughter is considered second degree murder, but with a reduced penalty.

Colorado has three additional manslaughter laws to cover accidental deaths, including assisted suicides, causing a death due to one's serious negligence, and killing someone with a car due to bad behavior such as drunk driving, texting and driving, and street racing.

Colorado Manslaughter Statutes At A Glance

The following table outlines the main parts of Colorado's manslaughter laws.


Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-3-103 (murder in the second degree, but with voluntary manslaughter provision)

Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-3-104 (manslaughter)

Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-3-105 (criminally negligent homicide)

Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-3-106 (vehicular homicide)

Crimes and Penalties

Second Degree Murder/Voluntary Manslaughter: Causing the death of another person in a sudden heat of passion. This is a Class 3 Felony punishable by up to 12 years imprisonment and up to $750,000 in fines.

Manslaughter: Recklessly causing the death of another person or intentionally causing or aiding another person to commit suicide. This is a Class 4 Felony punishable by up to 6 years imprisonment and up to $500,000 in fines.

Criminally Negligent Homicide: Causing the death of another person by conduct that is criminally negligent. This is usually a Class 5 Felony punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment and up to $100,000 in fines. However, if the victim is an adult or juvenile with a disability, it’s a Class 4 Felony.

Vehicular Homicide: Causing another person’s death through reckless driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causing someone’s death is a “strict liability” crime, meaning no intent to harm or state of mind is required. This is typically a Class 4 Felony (for driving recklessly), but is increased to a Class 3 Felony when alcohol or drugs are involved. A person is presumed to be or not be under the influence based on their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) as follows:

  • 0.05 or Less: The defendant is presumed to not be under the influence.
  • 0.05-0.08: This is not determinative but can be used as evidence to be consider.
  • 0.08 or Higher: The defendant is presumed to be under the influence.

For manslaughter, a person acting as the victim's health care decision maker isn’t considered to have assisted in suicide if he or she determines that medical care like CPR or a breathing machine aren’t appropriate or provides medication to comfort the victim even if it hastens death.

For vehicular manslaughter, use of an impairing prescription drug isn't a defense to driving under the influence as the defendant could be considered reckless by knowing the risks of driving while taking certain medication.

For more information see Voluntary Manslaughter Defenses and Involuntary Manslaughter Defenses.

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.

Additional Resources For Colorado Insurance Fraud Laws

Charged Under Colorado Manslaughter Laws? Contact an Attorney

One of the purposes of manslaughter laws is to recognize that not all killings are the same. The specific facts of a killing and, more specifically, the evidence in your case, can mean the difference between a few years or a lifetime in prison. That's why, if you're facing criminal charges in Colorado, it's important to have the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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