Denver DA Drops Assault Charge Against 85 Year Old

In December, John Copeland, an 85 year old man, was charged with third degree assault for allegedly hitting a parking monitor with his cane. Copeland and the parking monitor got into an argument over Copeland’s handicap parking placard. Copeland hit the monitor over the head with his cane.  The reason for the dismissal is not entirely clear.

There are multiple levels of assault in Colorado. Third degree assault is a class one misdemeanor.  To commit third degree assault a person must knowingly or recklessly cause bodily injury, meaning pain, to another person.

Second and first degree assault are felonies that carry mandatory prison sentences because they are considered crimes of violence. There are multiple ways in which a person can commit second degree assault, but the most common is if a person causes serious bodily injury to another person.  Serious bodily injury includes breaks, fractures or permanent disfigurement, which includes scarring.  For example, a person could get into a bar fight and break a person’s nose and that would constitute second degree assault which carries a mandatory minimum of 5 years prison.

First degree assault carries a minimum mandatory 10 years prison. A person commits first degree assault when there is serious bodily injury caused by a deadly weapon.  Deadly weapons are not limited to guns and knives.  People can be charged with using a deadly weapon for using something such as a broken bottle or even their hands.

These consequences can be very severe compared to the actual conduct, especially considering that a person can have no criminal record whatsoever, and if convicted, could see a lengthy jail sentence.  Under certain circumstances, it is possible to negotiate with a prosecutor for a much more lenient sentence.  In addition, there are many defenses that may apply, resulting in dismissal or acquittal of the charges.  It is important to have an attorney who can advocate for you if you find yourself charged with such a serious crime.

Source:  Denver Post, Ryan Parker, Sept. 6, 2013