Far too many people are the victims of domestic violence in the state of Colorado. Precisely what constitutes domestic violence in this state? How are crimes of domestic violence prosecuted, and how are convicted domestic violence offenders punished? Keep reading. You’re about to learn the answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding domestic violence crimes in Colorado.

Of course, what you’ll read here are general answers that will apply in most domestic violence cases and situations, but if you are involved in any specific incident of domestic violence in Colorado, you’ll need to obtain the sound, personalized legal advice that an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney can offer – and you’ll need it as quickly as possible.

An allegation of domestic violence is a powerful accusation against your character. If it leads to a conviction for a crime of domestic violence, that allegation can cost you fines and even jail time in this state, but the legal penalties may not be nearly as painful as the loss of trust from your colleagues, neighbors, and friends.

WHAT CRIMES ARE CONSIDERED DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN COLORADO?

In Colorado, domestic violence can include a range of crimes that victimize someone who has been in an intimate relationship with the alleged perpetrator. Obviously, assault or battery – or the threat to commit assault or battery – constitutes domestic violence, but so does any crime intended to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or inflict revenge against an intimate partner or an ex-intimate partner.

A crime of domestic violence may be prosecuted in Colorado as a misdemeanor, or if the abuse has caused severe or lasting injury, as a felony. Domestic violence crimes in this state can include harassment, menacing, kidnapping, burglary, theft, or the destruction of private property. Even threatening or injuring someone’s pet could be considered domestic violence.

HOW DO COLORADO POLICE OFFICERS HANDLE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

In most criminal cases, a Colorado police officer has substantial discretion regarding where, when, and whether to arrest and charge someone with a crime. Domestic violence cases are different. If law officers respond to a domestic violence call and have probable cause to believe that a crime of domestic violence has been committed, the suspected perpetrator must be placed under arrest. It’s the law.

The statute requires the police to make a domestic violence arrest “without undue delay,” which means on the spot if the suspect is present. In our state, domestic violence suspects cannot be released until a bond hearing has been scheduled and the purported domestic violence victim has had an opportunity to speak with the prosecutor regarding the bond.

WHAT IF A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIM DROPS THE CHARGE?

Criminal charges in Colorado are not brought by alleged crime victims but by the state. When the state charges someone with a crime, only the state – and not the victim – can drop the charge, even if the alleged victim changes his or her mind. That’s one reason why anyone accused of domestic violence must be represented by an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney.

A conviction for a crime of domestic violence will have a negative impact on anyone’s future employment prospects, child custody arrangements, and other important aspects of life. Teachers and others who work with children can lose their professional licenses, and you can also lose your right to own or carry a firearm in Colorado – permanently – after a conviction for a crime of domestic violence.

All Colorado domestic violence cases are also classified as victim’s rights cases. This classification gives the victims of domestic violence the right to consult with the prosecutor before the bond hearing is conducted and before any plea deal is offered. Domestic violence victims also have the right to address the court at sentencing hearings and to be notified when the offender is released from custody.

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A HABITUAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OFFENDER?

Anyone with three prior domestic violence convictions in this state is considered a habitual domestic violence offender, so a fourth domestic violence charge – without regard to the specifics of the crime itself – may be prosecuted as a Class 5 felony, which is punishable upon conviction by up to three years in a Colorado state prison.

Additionally, it is a violation of federal law for anyone who has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence to possess a firearm or to possess the ammunition for a firearm. Colorado makes it a felony to possess a firearm in this state after a felony conviction for a crime of domestic violence. Both the state and federal firearm bans are lifetime bans.

Defendants who are convicted of any crime of domestic violence in Colorado – except for those who are sent to prison – also must complete a domestic violence treatment program and evaluation. For a first-offense domestic violence misdemeanor, a convicted offender can expect to attend at least 36 hour-long sessions over 36 weeks. The sessions are mandatory even for those offenders who receive deferred judgments and sentences.

HOW CAN YOU DEFEND AGAINST A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CHARGE?

How can you defend yourself against a charge of domestic violence? Understand first that an accusation of domestic violence is not the equivalent of a conviction. To obtain a domestic violence conviction in Colorado – or a conviction for any crime – the state must prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In domestic violence cases, that isn’t always easy.

In some cases, an accusation of domestic violence can be discredited. Unfortunately, fabricated domestic violence allegations are not uncommon. In other cases, self-defense or the defense of one’s personal property may also succeed as a defense strategy against a charge of domestic violence. After reviewing the details of the charge, your attorney will craft a defense strategy – with your help and consent – that’s appropriate and right for your specific case.

If you are innocent of committing a crime of domestic violence, fight the charge. But whether you are innocent of a domestic violence crime or guilty as charged, you must have an aggressive criminal defense attorney protecting your rights and interests and advocating for justice on your behalf.

Choose a Colorado criminal defense lawyer who routinely handles domestic violence cases – someone who can answer your legal questions, who can explain how Colorado’s domestic violence laws apply to your own case, and who will bring your domestic violence case to its best possible resolution.

By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.