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Colorado Domestic Violence Laws

domestic-violenceA domestic violence charge in Colorado is serious business, with serious consequences that can, and often do, last a lifetime. Domestic violence laws in the Centennial state are very strict, and cover a wide variety of conduct between those involved, or formerly involved, in an intimate relationship.

Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling and abusive behavior involving two people who either are in an intimate relationship, or were formerly in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence situations are often very emotional for those that are involved and to outsiders these situations appear very dramatic. One person is an aggressor, while the other is a victim. Domestic violence in Colorado is complex and can involve many different things.

It is not, in and of itself, a crime, but rather is an enhancement when another crime has been committed that carries certain extra considerations for sentencing if the aggressor is convicted and the requirement that the convicted offender be subjected to a domestic violence treatment program and a treatment evaluation. However, those offenders that are convicted of a domestic violence enhanced crime that serve prison time are not required to participate in a treatment program.

Who Can Be Involved In Domestic Violence Situations

For the purposes of the “intimate relationship” that is required to exist, either currently or in the past, between the aggressor and the victim, any one of the following is considered an intimate relationship: current or ex-spouses, current or former unmarried couples (those that lived together but are not married; co-habitants), and those parents that share a child together, even if the parents were never married or never lived together.

What Type Of Conduct Is Considered Domestic Violence In Colorado?

Domestic violence can cover a lot of different types of conduct, but primarily can be summed up in the following way: An act of violence, a threat of violence, or any crime that is committed against a third party (e.g., the victim’s new significant other, or a family member or friend), animal, or property with the intention of causing fear or with the purpose of exercising control, coercion, intimidation, revenge or punishment, that is directed to the victim with which the aggressor had or has a relationship is domestic violence.

A number of actions can be considered to constitute domestic violence, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse (i.e., being controlling of money and finances), and can be overt or subtle. A number of crimes can be enhanced by domestic violence, including assault, battery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, rape or sexual assault, crimes against property or trespass.

Domestic Violence Cases Have Mandatory Arrests And Charges Can’t Be Dropped

Domestic violence cases are unlike any other crime that is committed because allegations or suspicions of domestic violence automatically require that the police make an arrest. When officers are called out to check on an instance of domestic violence, if they arrive and have probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has occurred, the are required by state law to make an arrest of the suspected aggressor without delay. The purpose of the mandatory arrest is to prevent the domestic violence from continuing or escalating to a more serious, or potentially deadly, level of danger. In reality, however, many arrests are made under the pretense of domestic violence that really were small family disagreements that got a little out of hand.

In many domestic violence cases, the victim calls the police and the police come and arrest the aggressor. Once the call is made, there is no taking it back. A victim cannot drop the charges and in most cases a judge can’t even stop a case from being prosecuted. Rather, only the state has the ability to press charges against the aggressor. This means that it is up to the state prosecutor whether or not the domestic violence case will go forward.

Domestic Violence Penalties and Sentencing

Domestic violence impacts sentencing and has unique penalties. In terms of sentencing, a person convicted of a domestic violence crime:

  • May not be permitted to be under house arrest or home detention as a sentencing option in situations where the home in question is also the residence of the domestic violence victim.
  • May not be eligible for probation based on the facts of the domestic violence case in order to protect the safety of the victim and any children involved in the domestic violence case.

When the offender has multiple convictions for domestic violence related crimes, he or she can be charged as a habitual domestic violence offender. This only happens if the offender has been convicted three or more times. Habitual domestic violence offender status enables the offender to be convicted of a Class 5 felony, which can carry a prison sentence of 12-36 months. If the crime is a crime of violence, the prison sentence for the habitual domestic violence offender can be increased to 2-6 years.
In terms of penalties, a person convicted of a domestic violence crime:

  • Will be required to participate in a domestic violence treatment program.
  • May also be required to participate in a domestic violence evaluation.
  • Will lose the ability to purchase or possess guns or ammunition.

Protection Orders for Domestic Violence

Another issue that frequently comes up in domestic violence cases is court protection orders.

  • For those needing the protection order. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you may request a protection order from the court that orders the offender to stay away from you. The order can be extended to those that are close to you (i.e., closet family members, children, new significant others) as well as geographical areas where you frequently have to go, such as your home, workplace or school.
  • For those with a protection order against them. If you have a protection order against you, it is imperative that you comply with the order. A failure to do so can result in a Class 2 misdemeanor for first time order violators and punishable by 3-12 in jail and the payment of a fine, or a Class 1 misdemeanor for repeat order violators (i.e., the person has violated other, different protective orders at some other point in time) and punishable by 6-18 months in jail and a larger fine. Violating the same protective multiple times can result in an increased jail sentence, adding anywhere from 6-24 additional months of jail time to a sentence.
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