Colorado courts treat domestic violence charges as enhancements or additions to existing charges. So, if the defendant and alleged victim share or have shared an intimate relationship, additional penalties will be imposed upon conviction.
To ensure due punishment, domestic violence charges in Colorado have some unique characteristics:
- They require mandatory arrest.
- The accuser cannot drop the charges.
- The District Attorney can proceed with the case even if the accuser does not want to press charges.
What Are Crimes of Domestic Violence?
In Colorado, domestic violence laws prohibit acts of violence and threats of violence against a person with whom the actor is in or has been in an intimate relationship. According to the statute, an “intimate relationship” is a relationship between spouses, former spouses, past or present unmarried couples, or parents of the same child.
There are many different types of domestic violence crimes, including:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Economic abuse
- Psychological abuse
Defendants accused of physical abuse are usually charged with domestic assault, which exists in three degrees based on the severity of the violence.
First-degree Domestic Assault. This occurs when a person causes or intends to cause serious bodily injury to another through the use of a deadly weapon.
Second-degree Domestic Assault. Anyone who intentionally causes or intends to cause bodily injury to a partner or former partner can be charged with this.
Third-degree Domestic Assault. This is characterized by reckless bodily harm and carries the lightest penalties of the three.
A person can be charged with domestic violence after causing physical violence or threatening physical violence against a third-party individual, property, or animal with the intention of coercion, control, intimidation, or punishment directed at a person with whom the actor is or has been in an intimate relationship.
So, if a person attacks an ex’s car with a baseball bat in hopes of exacting revenge, that person could be facing domestic violence charges.
What Penalties Can Offenders Expect?
Acts of domestic violence involve underlying violent actions associated with other charges (i.e., assault), so offenders are initially charged with the underlying act. However, courts can decide if the act violates domestic violence statutes.
If an act of domestic violence has occurred, the offender will be ordered to complete treatment after conviction. A court may evaluate an offender’s treatment to determine the appropriate sentencing.
Felony Domestic Violence
First-degree domestic assault is a class 3 felony in Colorado, punishable by up to 12 years in prison and/or fines of up to $750,000. Second-degree domestic assault is a class 4 felony, punishable by two to six years in prison and/or fines of up to $500,000.
If a domestic violence offender has three convictions, the prosecutor can petition the court to have the accused declared a habitual domestic violence offender, in which case the charge will be upgraded to a Class 5 felony.
For a convicted felon, the punishment doesn’t stop after the fines, incarceration, and probation. There are some freedoms that people never get back after being convicted of a felony. They are unable to purchase or carry a firearm, apply for a teacher’s license, hold office, vote, or even travel internationally.
Lawyer Up, No Matter What Side You’re On
A person convicted of a domestic violence crime in Colorado can expect some serious ramifications. Even after the sentence is served, a domestic violence charge can severely damage a person’s reputation. Sometimes, a conviction isn’t even necessary for a domestic violence charge to cause harm.
Whatever your situation, you need to fight back with the strongest possible defense. Maybe you were charged even though you’re really the victim in the situation. Perhaps an individual made false allegations against you.
Everyone’s story is different — but if you don’t put together a smart legal strategy to defend yourself, the outcome is not likely to be good.
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.