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Colorado Criminal Defense Blog

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Domestic violence is not a crime all by itself in Colorado. In fact, domestic violence is what is known as a “sentence enhancer” in the state, meaning that it will increase punishment for an underlying offense.

If you’re accused of a crime involving domestic violence as an aggravating factor, you may face serious charges in the state. In Colorado, police will arrest anyone they suspect with probable cause to have perpetrated domestic violence. That’s why it’s important to know what it means to be charged with domestic violence along with another crime.

Here’s what you need to know about domestic violence in Colorado – including whether charges can be dropped if the victim refuses to show up in court to face the person they claim has perpetrated crimes involving domestic violence against them.

Colorado Domestic Violence Charges

As mentioned, domestic violence is not its own crime in Colorado, but instead an aggravating factor or sentence enhancer for another crime. The most common crimes with domestic violence enhancements include:

  • Assault
  • False imprisonment
  • Sexual contact
  • Stalking
  • Elder abuse
  • Harassment
  • Menacing
  • Child abuse
  • Violation of a restraining order
  • Sexual assault

Any criminal charge can have a domestic violence enhancement attached to it. In order for a crime to have a domestic violence enhancement, it must take place between people with a certain connection, defined as an “intimate relationship”, in Colorado.

An intimate relation often relies on the status of sharing a child or having a former or current romantic attachment. If someone is a former or current spouse, former or current intimate partner, or someone with whom you co-parent a child, then a domestic violence enhancement can be a possibility for other charges.

Penalties for Domestic Violence

A domestic violence enhancement penalty will rely on the underlying crime. In general, judges may order a defendant to take a domestic violence evaluation and complete a treatment program. A restraining order can also be ordered and extended to protect the victim.

If you are found guilty of domestic violence for the fourth time in Colorado, then the state labels you a habitual domestic violence offender. In that case, you’ll be penalized for a Class 5 felony, which will add up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 to your sentence.

Can a Victim Drop The Charges?

In Colorado, a victim cannot drop domestic violence charges against the defendant. If a prosecutor believes they have enough evidence to convict a person of domestic violence, they are not allowed to dismiss a case or even to commit to a plea bargain for a non-domestic violence charge.

Colorado Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer

This also means that a victim has no power to sway the prosecution or derail the cause by recanting their testimony or by simply not showing up in court. If the prosecutor has enough evidence on their own, they don’t need the victim to make a statement.

However, if they are subpoenaed to court and do not show up, then they risk having a bench warrant put out for their arrest. It’s uncommon, but it can occur.

Often, so many questions come up when domestic violence enters a criminal case. It’s vital to understand your rights in the matter as well as the charges that have been filed against you. Make sure you mount the strongest defense possible.


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 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.


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