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Colorado Criminal Defense Blog

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Perhaps you’ve heard of someone who has been charged with domestic violence. It’s not unusual for a person to refer to any crime involving domestic violence as just that, but doing so ignores the nuance and complexity of the law.

The truth is that, in Colorado, domestic violence is an enhancement to another crime, not a crime all on its own. There are many crimes that can have domestic violence added as an aggravator – in fact, if the circumstances are right, most any crime can have domestic violence added as an enhancement to the sentence.

To help you understand how domestic violence works in Colorado, here are the most common crimes charged in cases of domestic violence and how having the domestic violence enhancement can change the outcome of the case if the defendant is found guilty.

What Is Domestic Violence?

It’s vital to understand why domestic violence would be charged as an enhancement if you want to understand why it’s added as an aggravator to certain crimes.

In Colorado, domestic violence is violence that takes place between intimate partners. An intimate partner is someone you have been married to or are married to, someone you have dated or are currently dating, or someone with whom you share a child. If you are charged with another crime that was perpetrated against an intimate partner, then it’s likely a domestic violence enhancement will be added to the charges against you – which can result in an additional order for domestic violence treatment.

Additionally, if you are convicted of four or more domestic violence crimes, you will be labeled as a habitual domestic violence offender. In that circumstance, you may face further enhancements to the sentencing.

What Is Domestic Violence in Colorado?

Common Crimes Related to Domestic Violence

There are several crimes that are often seen in conjunction with domestic violence enhancements. Some of the most common felonies include:

First-Degree Assault

First-degree assault occurs when someone seriously and intentionally hurts another through means of physical force. In many cases, a deadly weapon is used.

First-degree assault is the most serious assault crime. It is a Class 3 felony. If convicted, you can face up to 32 years in prison and be required to pay fines of as much as $750,000.

Second-Degree Assault

When someone recklessly or intentionally causes injury to someone else with a deadly weapon, then they have committed second-degree assault. It can result in a prison sentence of up to 16 years if convicted.

Unlawful Sexual Contact

When one person gropes or fondles another without their consent, it’s considered unlawful sexual contact. Basically, it’s unwanted touching in a sexual manner. If the victim is drugged or forced to submit because they were threatened or intimated to do so, then it’s a felony that can result in up to eight years behind bars and fines of as much as $500,000.

False Imprisonment

When someone is detained unlawfully without their consent for a period of 12 hours or more through the threat of force – or if the victim is a minor who is restrained and subject to serious emotional distress or bodily injury – then it’s felony false imprisonment. As a Class 5 felony, it can result in up to three years in prison and fines of as much as $100,000.


Stalking is a predatory behavior pattern involving credible threats that put someone in fear or lead to serious emotional distress. It’s considered a crime of extraordinary risk, which means it can result in an increased penalty of up to four years behind bars with a two-year period of mandatory parole, plus fines of $100,000. Each time a person is convicted of stalking, the penalties rise.


When someone places another in fear of serious bodily injury or death knowingly through the use of threats, then it’s menacing. If a deadly weapon is used or the defendant acts as if they have a deadly weapon, then it’s a Class 5 felony, which is punishable by a prison sentence of three years and fines of up to $100,000.

Denver Domestic Violence Lawyer

Misdemeanor crimes can also have domestic violence enhancements. Some of the most common misdemeanors include:

Third-Degree Assault

This occurs when someone recklessly, with criminal negligence, or knowingly inflicts bodily injury on another. It’s also an extraordinary risk crime. In this case, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction of third-degree assault can land someone in jail for up to 18 months.


When someone intentionally annoys, alarms, or bothers another person through repeated contact, following, hitting, obscene gestures, or taunting, then it’s considered harassment. If convicted, a person can face up to one year in jail and fines of $1,000.


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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