Colorado courts take accusations of domestic violence very seriously. If you have been charged with committing an act of domestic violence in Colorado, there is no room for error—you need to call a criminal defense attorney right away. Read this article for some important things to know if you have been accused of domestic violence.
Being charged with domestic violence is a serious offense that can impact the rest of your life. Permanent loss of firearms, jail time, and security clearances are at stake.
What is Domestic Violence?
“Domestic violence” is an act or threatened act of violence against a person with whom you are—or have been—involved in an intimate relationship. Colo. Revised Statutes § 18-6-800.3
The term “domestic violence” is very broad, and can apply, for instance, to current or former spouses, past or present domestic partners, current or former boyfriends or girlfriends, or the other parent of your child.
These acts of violence can include harassment, injury, control, terrorism, or property damage. Moreover, domestic violence often does not consist of a single incident. Instead, it is considered “a continual state of victimization that involves several crimes.” People v. Turner, 109 P.3d 639, 640 (Colo. 2005)
Domestic Violence in Colorado
Domestic violence is not treated as an independent crime in Colorado. Rather, it is a powerful sentence enhancer that increases the punishment for any offense committed against current or former spouses or dating partners.
A domestic violence sentence enhancer usually means a judge will require you to complete a a treatment program that focuses on domestic violence. These are in addition to serving whatever sentence you receive for the underlying crime. People v. Disher, 224 P.3d 254, 255 (Colo. 2010).
Reporting is also required. If someone seeks medical treatment following a dispute, the hospital is legally required to report the case to police if they believe the injury is a result of domestic violence. The alleged offender in the situation will be arrested on a probable cause standard.
Many Colorado jurisdictions have adopted “Domestic Violence Fast Track” programs. These programs are designed to accelerate domestic violence cases while the accusing party is still motivated to follow through with prosecution. These programs can create unbearable pressure for someone to just “take a deal and get this over with”, even in cases where the prosecution has a very weak case.
Common Domestic Violence Charges in Colorado
Some crimes that commonly involve domestic violence include:
- violating a restraining order
- sexual assault
However, the domestic violence enhancement can apply to any criminal charge or municipal ordinance violation, including pets and property.
For example, a Fort Collins man destroyed his ex-wife’s phone during an argument. He later pleaded guilty to criminal mischief as an act of domestic violence. People v. Throssel, 2021 Colo. Discipl. LEXIS 61, *1
If the man and his victim had been platonic friends instead of former spouses, he would have faced only the criminal mischief charge
What to Know If You Have Been Charged with Domestic Violence in Colorado
Colorado is a mandatory arrest state. That means police must arrest anyone who they have probable cause to believe has committed a crime involving domestic violence. If a person in your household calls the police to report an incident of domestic violence, someone is likely leaving the house in handcuffs. It does not matter if the alleged victim later recants their statement or does not want to press charges.
Colorado requires that you appear before a judge to have a bond set when you are accused of domestic violence. No bond will be set until this is done. This is called a “no bond hold.” In other words, you will be held in jail without being allowed to post bond until you appear before a judge for advisement and the entry of a mandatory protection order. This applies even on weekends and holidays.
In all suspected domestic violence cases, a domestic violence restraining (protection) order will be issued. If you are charged with domestic violence, this will keep you from having any contact with the other party unless you seek for a modification of the restraining order and the modification is granted by the court. The restraining order may dictate that you must keep a minimum distance from the person accusing you. Violating the protection order could mean jail time for you—even if you inadvertently end up at the same grocery store as your accuser and you do not immediately leave. Violating a protection order is also a separate crime in Colorado.
How a Domestic Violence Conviction Affects Your Life
You usually may not possess firearms while there is a domestic violence restraining order against you. You will have to surrender your guns to law enforcement.
If the case is dismissed and the restraining order is lifted, your guns may be returned. However, if you are convicted of a felony or violent misdemeanor, you will lose gun rights permanently. This is under both Colorado and federal law.
Once you have been sentenced, you have 24 hours—excluding legal holidays and weekends—to hand over your firearms. C.R.S. § 18-6-801(8)(b)
If convicted of a crime involving domestic violence, you will lose the ability to seal that record from your criminal history. C.R.S. § 24-72-706(2)(a)(VI)(E) This means that most (if not all) background checks will show that you were charged and convicted of a domestic violence crime. A criminal record that includes domestic violence may affect your ability to get a job or pass a security clearance.
Being convicted of a domestic violence-related crime may also have consequences for your military career, or even your ability to stay in the country if you are not a citizen of the United States.
You may also be charged with a felony under Colorado law if you have been previously convicted three or more times of having committed an act of domestic violence, even when the act would otherwise be considered a misdemeanor. C.R.S. § 18-6-801(7)(a)
Defending a Domestic Violence Enhancement
There are two ways to fight a domestic violence enhancement:
- To beat the charge or charges enhanced by the domestic violence enhancer (that is, have the charges dismissed or be found not guilty); or
- Show that domestic violence does not apply to the circumstances presented by the prosecutor.
Just because you are charged with domestic violence does not mean you cannot use defenses that can be used in other non-domestic violence cases. These include, for instance:
- The alleged victim is “making it up”;
- Defense of others;
- Defense of property; and/or
- Mistake of fact
You are also allowed to have the jury consider evidence that your case does not meet the definition of domestic violence in Colorado. The major example of this is that you and the alleged victim were never in an “intimate relationship.” Thus it could not be domestic violence.
Alternatively, in situations where a violent act did not occur, you may be able to argue that any sort of alleged action was not for the purposes of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge. In other words, without conceding that the act occurred, you may be able to argue that any sort of alleged act happened only because you had been drinking, or you were mistaken as to who was the owner of some piece of property.
You Absolutely Need an Attorney if You are Arrested for Domestic Violence
Don’t ever admit guilt. The best way to protect your rights is to call an attorney. If you are ever arrested for domestic violence, immediately request a domestic violence defense lawyer. Do not say anything until you have talked with your lawyer.
We Can Defend Your Domestic Violence Charges
The moment you are charged with domestic violence, Robinson & Henry should be your first call. Our attorneys know how to minimize the damage to your life and reputation. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment.