Domestic violence has major consequences for victims and abusers. That’s why it is taken seriously in Colorado. During the past decade, state legislators have expanded domestic violence laws.
The legal definition of domestic violence is now more defined, and the time a victim has to sue their abuser has increased.
Colorado Domestic Violence Laws
Colorado law defines domestic violence assault as bodily harm or threat of it caused by someone you’ve had an intimate relationship with:
- spouses and ex-spouses
- individuals who share a child together
- current and former girl/boyfriends
- a person you date or have dated
In addition to actual physical harm, domestic violence can also include:
- a threat of violence
- damage to or threat of damage to personal property, including animals, in an effort to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or seek revenge
Colorado’s domestic violence laws do not require a victim to have lived with their abuser. And, despite the statute containing the word “intimate,” the law does not necessitate a sexual relationship to constitute an intimate one.
Criminal Domestic Violence Laws: Statute of Limitations
The state of Colorado does not have a separate criminal offense for domestic violence. Instead, the alleged abuser is charged with other crimes.
For example, the charge could be aggravated assault, which is a felony. Or, it could be menacing, which is a misdemeanor.
There’s a limited time for an alleged abuser to be prosecuted and sentenced in a criminal case. It’s called the statute of limitations.
The level of the offense determines the length of the statute of limitations:
Felony acts – three years
Misdemeanor acts – 18 months
In other words, someone who allegedly abused an intimate partner can face charges up to three years after the incident takes place.
Stiffer Criminal Penalties for Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is considered an aggravating factor. So when someone is charged, for instance, with assault of an intimate partner, a domestic violence enhancement is added to the charges.
The enhancement increases penalties and sentencing. Therefore the punishment for an assault is more severe if it’s done to an intimate relationship partner.
Robinson & Henry, P.C. | Domestic Violence Lawyers
Don’t take an assault with a domestic violence enhancement charge lightly.
By law, if police have probable cause you committed domestic violence, they must immediately arrest you. You also will be held in jail until you can appear before a judge who will issue a Mandatory Protection Order.
You should speak with an experienced domestic violence defense attorney who can ensure your rights are protected.
We offer free initial consultations with our domestic violence defense attorneys.
Suing Your Domestic Violence Attacker
Civil Claims and Domestic Violence Laws
Domestic violence victims suffer immensely, from physical injuries to emotional damage to economic losses. Survivors deserve a chance to regain control and build a new life.
Many domestic violence survivors struggle with securing safe housing, buying a car, or paying for every day necessities because of medical debt or lost jobs due to abuse.
If this is you, you deserve a fair chance at starting fresh. A civil claim may help you get there.
Six Years to Sue Domestic Violence Abusers
Domestic violence survivors can sue their abuser to recover monetary damages. Victims can be compensated for hospital bills, psychological therapy, and lost wages.
Until recently, domestic violence victims had to file a civil claim within a year of being harmed in a domestic violence incident. That’s because alleged abusers are charged for other crimes, such as assault, menacing, or stalking. The statute of limitations is one year to file a civil claim for assault or battery.
Today, there’s a separate statute of limitations for domestic violence civil claims. In 2018, the state expanded the statute of limitations for domestic violence victims to six years.
The statute also allows a disabled person time to recover or improve, before filing a lawsuit. The law defines a person with a disability as someone who:
- has a traumatic brain injury
- has a behavioral or mental health disorder
- has an intellectual and developmental disability
- is emotionally or psychologically unable to acknowledge the abuse
The civil claim, however, must be filed within 20 years of the domestic violence.
How Your Civil Case is Different from a Criminal Case
When an individual is criminally prosecuted for assault with a domestic violence enhancement, a jury must decide beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant is guilty of the crime. The same is not true in a civil court.
The burden of proof is lower in a civil case. If you sue your attacker, you, as the plaintiff, must prove by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed the wrongdoing.
A fair preponderance of the evidence means the information you present to the court is more persuasive than the defendant’s. Or, in other words, your evidence proves the claim is probably true rather than probably untrue.
Additionally, you could win a civil case without the alleged accuser being found guilty of assault. Although, if your abuser is found guilty of assault, your chances of winning a civil case improve.
Damages in a Civil Domestic Violence Case
Actual damages are awarded for the money you lost due to the domestic violence. So, if you have doctor bills, hospital bills, and psychiatry bills, you may be able to recovery money for that. You may also be able to receive monetary damages for lost wages if you had to miss work or lost your job as a result of the abuse.
A jury can award you exemplary damages, or punitive damages, in addition to your actual damages if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt the injury was sustained from fraudulent, malicious, or reckless conduct.C.R.S.A. § 13-21-102 & C.R.S.A. § 13-25-127
Common Charges Related to Domestic Violence
What Constitutes Assault
In Colorado, assault occurs when someone intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes someone else bodily harm.
There are different degrees of assault determined by:
- the severity of the injury or risk of injury
- the intent
- whether a deadly weapon was used
The Crime of Menacing
A person can be charged with menacing if they knowingly cause you to fear for your immediate safety. These threats can be verbal or through actions.
Menacing is generally a misdemeanor unless a deadly weapon is used during the threatening incident. When that’s the case, the charge is bumped up to a felony.
For example, let’s say you’re having a heated discussion with someone. They tell you that they’re going to kill you. The individual storms off and returns with a baseball bat. They begin swinging the bat like they’re going to hit you but break items around you instead. You may be in fear for your life. In this case, the individual could face felony menacing charges.
A domestic violence enhancement can be added to menacing charges.
Stalking as Domestic Violence
Stalking is a serious crime. In cases of intimate relationships the stalker’s goal may be to win back the lost relationship, whether it was serious or casual.
Stalkers may try to coerce or blackmail their victims in an effort to assert control or seek revenge.
Colorado defines it in a statute called Vonnie’s Law, named after Leadville stalking victim Vonnie Flores. Vonnie’s neighbor murdered her when he was out on bail after police arrested and charged him with stalking her.
A person commits stalking if they directly or indirectly:
- make a credible threat against you or your loved ones
- repeatedly follow, approach, contact, or watch you or your loved ones
- repeatedly contact you or your loved ones
- cause you or your loved ones serious emotional distress
Robinson & Henry, P.C. | Domestic Violence Civil Lawyers | (303) 688-0944
If you’re a domestic violence survivor you may be entitled to recover damages from your abuser. Schedule your free initial assessment with one of our compassionate domestic violence attorneys.