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What You Need to Know About Colorado Domestic Violence Laws

Monday, 09 June 2014

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If you find yourself in a situation where someone close to you is being violent or threatening violence against you, then it is important to seek help.  When the aggressor is someone with whom you have shared an intimate relationship, this act is considered domestic violence by statute.

How is domestic violence defined in Colorado?

Colorado defines domestic violence as an act of violence or threat of violence against a person with whom the aggressor has or had an intimate relationship. Also included is another crime or violation committed against a third-party or a property for the purpose of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation or revenge that is ultimately directed at a person with whom the aggressor has had an intimate relationship.  An example of this is when an aggressor vandalizes his or her ex-spouse’s car, with the purpose of intimidating the ex-spouse.  What is important to remember is that the crime doesn’t have to be a violent crime where the victim is physically injured.  Much of domestic violence is done with the intention of intimidation or coercion designed to scare the victim into remaining in the intimate relationship with the aggressor.

In order for the offense to be considered a crime involving domestic violence, the parties must be in or have been in an intimate relationship. 

How is an “Intimate relationship” defined by the Colorado courts?

  • current or former spouses
  • current or former unmarried couples, and
  • parents of the same child, regardless of whether the parents were ever married or resided together

What happens when someone is convicted of domestic violence in Colorado?

In Colorado, domestic violence isn’t punished as a separate offense from the underlying violent act.  For example, if the defendant is found guilty of an offense like assault, but the crime was also considered domestic violence, he or she will be sentenced for that crime as well as a domestic violence treatment program and evaluation. 

What is a domestic violence evaluation? 

If the court believes that it will help the court to determine the appropriate sentence, the judge may order the defendant to undergo an evaluation prior to sentencing. However, if the defendant is convicted of a criminal offense and is sentenced to prison, he or she will not be required to complete a treatment program. 

What about repeat offenders?

When a defendant has had three prior convictions for crimes involving domestic violence and is convicted again, the penalties will be increased.  This means that what would normally be considered a misdemeanor will carry additional penalties, or the court could require the defendant to be called a “habitual domestic violence offender.” In addition, the offense could be treated as a Class 5 felony, a crime that carries a maximum of four years in prison. 


What can the police do in a domestic violence situation?

In Colorado, the law requires a police officer to make an arrest where probable cause exists that it was domestic violence.  However, in cases where each offender claims that the other was the aggressor, the officer is not required to make an arrest.  

Officers are required to consider the following in determining if one or more persons committed a crime:

  • Has the offender had any prior complaints of domestic violence?
  • What is the relative severity of the injuries inflicted on each person?
  • What is the likelihood of future injury to each person?

In addition, the arresting agency must hold on to all pertinent evidence, such as on-scene audio and video recordings, physical evidence, medical records and witness statements. The arresting officer must also make note of whether any children heard or saw the offense.  A Colorado law enforcement officer would also need to have probable cause that the person should be restrained by a protective order, or that an existing order has been violated.  If arrest is impractical the officer may seek a warrant.

Is a protective order necessary?

In the state of Colorado, any municipal, county, district, juvenile or probate court is permitted to issue a protective order for domestic violence.  These orders are used to prevent the defendant from threatening, harming or having contact with the protected person.  Once the protective order is in place, another court may issue additional orders as it deems appropriate to protect the parties at risk, which might include excluding the defendant from living in the family home or awarding temporary custody of minor children to another family member.

What happens when a protective order is violated?

Colorado law states that violating a civil protective order carries a Class 2 misdemeanor penalty, which could result in up to 12 months in jail, a $250 fine, or both.  However, if the defendant has a previous conviction for violating a protective order, the crime becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries up to an 18 month prison sentence and a $500 fine. 

Consult with a Colorado Springs family law attorney

If you are charged with a crime involving domestic violence you should speak with a lawyer that specializes in handling such cases.  Because the Colorado courts define domestic violence quite broadly and conviction of this type of crime carries such serious consequences, it is wise to have a lawyer evaluate your case.  A family lawyer will guide you through the process and advise you of various defenses.

 

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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