Domestic violence is a serious problem in our society. However, we all know that sometimes people who have done nothing wrong end up being charged with allegations of domestic violence. What most people do not know is that domestic violence is actually not a separate crime in Colorado, but rather is considered a “rider” which can be attached to any other crime.
So what is domestic violence? Colorado defines domestic violence as “an act or threatened act upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.”[i] It also includes “any other crime against a person, or against property, including an animal, or any municipal ordinance violation against a person, or against property, including an animal, when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.”[ii] An intimate relationship is defined as “a relationship between spouses, former spouses, past or present unmarried couples, or persons who are both the parents of the same child regardless of whether the persons have been married or have lived together at any time.”[iii]
For example, if you steal someone’s car that is theft. If you still your ex-girlfriend’s car because you are angry she broke up with you that is theft-domestic violence. If you punch someone at a bar that is assault. If you punch your husband that is assault-domestic violence. Any crime can be one of domestic violence if you did it to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or get revenge against someone you are or used to be in an intimate relationship with.
One of the reasons so many people in Colorado end up being charged with domestic violence is that Colorado is what we call a “mandatory arrest” state.[iv] This means that any time the police have probable cause to suspect someone has committed a crime of domestic violence they are required to arrest that individual. They cannot give them a warning. They cannot decline to arrest someone because the victim asks them not to press charges. In some ways this makes sense. We know that real victims sometimes recant to protect their abusers. We also know that letting people off with warnings may increase the cycle of violence. However, we also know that mandatory arrests often times lead to people being arrested who should have never been charged in the first place.
Additionally, once you are charged with domestic violence it is hard to get your case dismissed. It is similar to being charged with Driving Under the Influence in that the prosecutor cannot dismiss your case or offer you a plea deal to a charge that does not include domestic violence unless they can stand up in open court and explain to the judge in good faith that they do not believe they can prove the defendant and victim were in an intimate relationship.[v] This is generally a high bar to get over.
If you are convicted or accept a plea deal to a charge that includes a domestic violence rider you will be subject to certain requirements at sentencing. First, you will be required to submit to a domestic violence evaluation and required to complete all the recommended treatment.[vi] This can includes 30+ domestic violence classes. Second, you will be required to relinquish and refrain from purchasing any firearms or weapons in your possession.[vii]
Domestic violence cases are taken seriously in Colorado. If you or someone you know as been charged with domestic violence they need to seek legal counsel right away to protect their rights. Call one of the criminal defense attorneys at CGH today for a free consultation. Life happens. We can help.
[i] C.R.S. §18-6-800.3(1)
[ii] C.R.S. §18-6-800.3(1)
[iii] C.R.S. §18-6-800.3(2)
[iv] C.R.S. §18-6-803.6(1)
[v] C.R.S. §18-6-801(1)(b)(3)
[vi] C.R.S. §18-6-801(1)(a)
[vii] C.R.S. §18-6-801(8)(a)(I)(A-B)