Domestic violence cases come in all shapes and sizes. Some include actual violence and bodily injury. Others involve threats of harm or simple harassment. Whether you have been accused of domestic violence or are a victim of domestic violence, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Domestic violence-related charges are serious and can have a devastating effect on your life and career. If you have children, the consequences can be more severe than you may have thought possible.
What to Expect After a Domestic Violence Arrest
Colorado has a “mandatory arrest” policy concerning domestic violence. This means police are required to make an arrest if they have probable cause to suspect that domestic violence has taken place.
Here are some key things to expect if you’ve been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence:
- A police report detailing all accounts of the crime will be compiled on the day of your arrest.
- Before the case goes to court, a mandatory domestic violence protection order will be put in place.
- You will make a plea at your first court hearing. It is crucial to have an attorney to represent you at this hearing.
- Domestic violence cases are fast-tracked in Colorado. The Fast-Track program accelerates the prosecution of domestic violence crimes that are classified as misdemeanors. This enables early intervention and treatment, as well as the safe participation of the victim.
- Jail time will be decided based on previous domestic violence complaints, the degree of injury to the victim(s), and the risk of future domestic abuse. Whether the offender acted in self-defense will also be considered.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Colorado?
Many people use the term domestic violence (DV) as if it was an actual charge in and of itself. It’s actually what legal professionals call a sentence enhancer. That means that domestic violence charges can be added to any underlying charge, no matter whether a misdemeanor or felony, such as assault, harassment, child abuse, or stalking (to name a few). According to Colorado Revised Statute 18-6-800.3 (1):
“’Domestic violence’ means an act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship. ’Domestic violence‘ 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.”
As an example of how this works in practice: Say a defendant has been charged with Assault 3 (a Class 1 Misdemeanor). If in the course of proving the Assault 3, the prosecutor can also establish that the defendant and the alleged victim were in an “intimate relationship,” then additional and more severe penalties may attach to the charge.
Believe it or not, some of the behavior you might see in a romantic comedy could easily qualify as domestic violence in Colorado. A lovestruck character who won’t take no for an answer and keeps sending messages and gifts to his ex-girlfriend? That’s harassment. Following your love interest while he goes on a date with someone you know isn’t right for him? That’s stalking. A couple pushing and shoving during an argument while the children are present? That’s child abuse.
Colorado is renowned for its overly strict approach to anything even appearing to be ill-considered actions between people who have, at some point, been in an intimate relationship. While everyone would agree that there are good reasons for criminal laws designed to prevent or punish domestic violence, the actual practical application of those laws ensnares a lot of good people in what could have been a simple family disagreement. These laws can also provide bitter former spouses the perfect tool to repeatedly have their exes arrested for even the most minor of alleged infractions. Unfortunately, there are many good and loving people in Colorado who have found themselves labeled as domestic abusers for all-time.
Bottom line, if you are facing a domestic violence-related charge, you need to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Common Domestic Violence Defense Strategies
An experienced Colorado Springs domestic violence attorney can craft a compelling defense strategy to refute the prosecution’s arguments. Some common strategies that criminal defense attorneys deploy when handling domestic violence cases include:
- Self-Defense: Colorado state law allows individuals to use physical force to defend themselves when they are facing imminent harm, and the degree of that physical force is deemed appropriate for the circumstances.
- Defending a Child: The same is true if you employ physical force while defending your child from harm.
- False Allegation: Your case is likely to be dropped by the prosecutor if you can demonstrate that the allegations against you are false.
- Illegal Procedures: When making an arrest, police must follow certain rules and regulations. If you were not read your rights, if an illegal search was performed, or if there was any other irregularity in the arrest, your case may be dismissed.
- One-Time Occurrence: If this is your first domestic violence offense, a skilled attorney can argue that this was an isolated incident and will not happen again in the future, possibly reducing your sentence.
- Accident: In some situations, a domestic violence accusation may be the result of an accident, which can lead to reduced penalties or the dismissal of the case entirely, depending on the nature of the accident.
Colorado Springs Domestic Violence Penalties
Domestic violence offenders can face serious repercussions. Mandatory protection orders (also called a restraining order) will be imposed. This means you may not be able to return home, contact your significant other, or communicate with your kids. While charges are pending, you may be required to give up any firearms in your possession. Various government agencies, such as the Department of Human Services, can investigate whether there is emotional, physical, medical, and/or educational neglect in your home.
The penalties for a domestic violence conviction can be severe and may include:
- House Arrest. This is possible only when the domestic violence offender and the victim live separately. If confined to house arrest, the offender may be required to wear an electronic monitor.
- Domestic Violence Evaluation and Treatment. This is mandatory unless the defendant is sentenced to prison. The court can also order both parties (the accused and the accuser) to attend parenting classes or meet other requirements.
- Gun Restrictions. These are put in place if a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. The offender will not be able to buy or possess guns or ammunition. A defendant who is the subject of a protection/restraining order must also surrender their firearms. In that case, the gun owner can sell the gun to someone else or store it with a law enforcement agency or a licensed firearms dealer until rights are restored. In some cases, offenders lose their Second Amendment rights permanently.
- Probation. This is possible only after the safety and rights of the victim and any children are thoroughly evaluated. Not every defendant is eligible for probation.
- Jail or Prison Time. This can be mandatory, depending on the circumstances of the case. The level of the felony offense and any prior convictions will be considered. Prison sentences can range from one year to life, depending on the classification of the crime. A crime that is considered a petty offense or a municipal code violation can result in up to one year in the county jail.
- Fines. A range of fines and court fees are possible upon conviction of a domestic violence crime. Defendants with previous domestic violence convictions have to pay larger fines.
- Deportation. Non-citizens convicted of domestic violence may be deported, unless the defendant’s attorney can get the charge dismissed or the charge reduced to a non-removable offense.
- Additional Restrictions. A judge may order the offender to stay away from certain places and prohibit them from using alcohol or drugs.
While not legal penalties related to the case itself, a domestic violence conviction can also adversely affect someone’s ability to get child custody orders they believe are fair in divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities proceedings.
Our domestic violence attorneys at Peakstone Law Group, LLC will fight fiercely to prevent a conviction or minimize the penalties in your case. Contact our law firm now to discuss how we can help.