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Domestic violence is a tragic reality in relationships across the county. Lawmakers, social workers, and educators have worked hard to assess the causes and what actions should be taken to curb domestic violence deaths.


The solutions are not easy to find. Not all domestic violence cases are the same. One in four women have experienced domestic violence, but one in nine men are also victims of domestic violence. Some forms of domestic abuse are physical, other forms are sexual, and others strictly involve emotional violence.


However, there does seem to be a common factor in many cases: substance abuse. Colorado cases are no different.


Heavy drug or alcohol usage is also present in many instances of domestic violence. But what does the research say about this? How can substance abuse actually help defendants who have been accused of domestic violence?


Addiction and Substance Abuse in Colorado Can Result in Domestic Violence


There have been numerous studies linking the prevalence of substance abuse to domestic abusers. In 2011, researchers published one such set of findings in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Here is what they had to say regarding opioid-dependent fathers:


“When compared with 118 community controls, the opioid-dependent fathers reported greater prevalence of physical, sexual, and psychological aggression directed at the mother of their youngest biological child over the course of the relationship. They also reported more frequent physical, sexual, and psychological aggression directed at the mother during the previous year.”

Additional studies also address the link to alcohol abuse in this way:


“Within a sample of men and women arrested during a domestic incident, Stuart et al. (2006) found a significant relationship between severity of alcohol problems and perpetration of physical and psychological aggression, and Fals-Stewart (2003) discovered that, among men seeking treatment for alcohol abuse or intimate partner violence, the probability of severe physical aggression directed at a female partner was 11 times greater on days the men used alcohol when compared with days they abstained.”


The last sentence should be repeated. The probability of committing domestic violence toward a female partner was 11 times greater if the alleged abuser was using alcohol.


Intoxication Does Not Cause Domestic Violence in Colorado


There is a strong link between drug and alcohol usage and domestic violence, but there is no evidence to prove that drugs and alcohol cause domestic violence. Intoxication may simply aggravate the factors and emotions that lead to violence.


Domestic violence is not caused by one particular thing. Many factors may lead to domestic violence, including:


  • Being the victim of violence as a child
  • Low self-esteem
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • Cultural beliefs about violence, discipline, gender roles, etc.


Intoxication Does Not Cause Domestic Violence in Colorado


There is also no evidence to say that everyone who abuses drugs and alcohol has committed domestic violence, or that every person convicted of domestic violence is also an addict. The research simply shows that these two often go hand in hand.


Let’s go back to the 2011 study on opiate-dependent fathers. The study also mentions an interesting trend that almost seems to counteract their initial findings:


“Similarly, the opioid-dependent fathers reported both greater prevalence of physical and sexual aggression directed at them by the mother of their youngest child over the course of the relationship and more frequent sexual aggression directed at them over the previous year.”


Substance abuse and domestic violence are simply — and absolutely — linked.


What Does This Mean for the Accused in Colorado?


Linking domestic violence to substance abuse can actually help people who have been accused of domestic violence crimes.


On one hand, evidence of substance abuse or addiction problems could be considered a cry for help. Intoxication itself is rarely an effective defense for the alleged abuser’s actions, but it can show that they need rehabilitation rather than punishment.


If a judge truly believes that treatment or counseling will be more effective than jail, the alleged abuser may walk away without having to spend time behind bars.


Denver Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer


On the other hand, key witnesses in the case may have made accusations due to intoxication. There are many reasons why an addict may make false claims about domestic violence.


People under the influence of drugs are more likely to say things that they regret later – even if it means hurting the person they love.


When you and your Colorado criminal defense attorney can prove that one of your witnesses has substance abuse problems, and made false accusations while under the influence, their testimony may not be as incriminating.


These are not easy obstacles to overcome, but talking to your lawyer about the best defense strategy for your specific case is a step in the right direction.


About the Author:

Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.



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