Colorado’s criminal code defines a life sentence as an indefinite prison term that can run for the full duration of an individual’s natural life, either with or without parole, or a term of a duration as determined by the sentencing court.
Types of Life Sentences
In Colorado, certain offenses can lead to a life sentence, and the type of sentence imposed will depend on the nature of the crime and the criminal record of the offender:
- Life Without Parole: A life sentence without the possibility of parole may be imposed in cases of first-degree murder or certain other serious felonies in the state. If a person is convicted of a felony carrying a life sentence without the possibility of parole, the court has no authority to grant any form of release.
- Life Where Parole Is Available: Colorado courts may also impose life sentences that offer the possibility of parole after a certain length of time. The parole board will then decide whether to grant release after considering factors such as the nature of the crime, the offender’s behavior in prison and any mitigating circumstances.
- Fixed Term Sentences: In some cases, a court may impose a life sentence of a fixed duration instead of a life sentence without the possibility of parole or a sentence with parole eligibility. This type of sentence may be imposed in cases of some first-degree murder convictions, as well as certain other felony convictions.
Impacts of a Life Sentence
A life sentence is a harsh punishment for criminal offenders, and it can have a number of detrimental impacts. Firstly, it means the person will likely spend much of the rest of their life in prison, missing out on life at home and important transitions such as retirement. Additionally, it can cause serious psychological distress, as well as a range of other impacts, including:
- Significant interruption of family relationships
- Loss of or limitations on the ability to gain employment or pursue education
- A much greater risk of coming into contact with high-stakes or extreme situations that can lead to further criminal activity
- Reduced or eliminated opportunities to work on personal and community relationships
A life sentence can also have a significant financial burden in terms of the costs associated with maintaining a person in prison. This can create a significant financial burden for the state and taxpayers.
Given the nature of the punishment and its serious repercussions, it is important for people in Colorado facing potential life sentences to understand their rights and the options available to them- including how best to prepare for the sentencing hearing. Seeking legal counsel is essential to ensure the best possible outcome is achieved in any criminal proceedings, and that all available mitigating factors are taken into account.