Many times, people charged with domestic violence are taken aback because they do not understand the definition of domestic violence or think that their situation is a misunderstanding that has been blown out of proportion. There are far too many myths surrounding domestic violence, and if we clear some of them up, we may be able to reduce the number of domestic violence crimes that take place in Colorado and around the country.
Here are a few of the biggest misconceptions surrounding domestic violence.
“Physical harm has to be done in domestic violence cases.”
Let’s debunk this by looking at the definition of domestic violence as laid out by the Colorado Bar Association. Domestic violence is any “act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.” It can also include coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge. That means that acts such as saying you’re going to hurt your partner or stalking an ex can fall into the category of domestic violence.
“Just because the cops come, it doesn’t mean someone will be arrested.”
If the police are called in to investigate a case and have probable cause to believe that someone involved committed an act of domestic violence, they are legally required to arrest that person. It doesn’t matter if both people involved in the dispute say that they don’t want the incident to result in an arrest – the state is the one pressing charges and law demands that an arrest take place.
“Alleged victims can drop domestic violence charges at any time.”
This is one of the biggest misunderstandings about domestic violence laws in Colorado – if someone calls the cops in the heat of the moment but then later decides that they don’t want to press charges, there’s actually nothing they can do to get charges dropped. It’s the state that’s pressing charges, and only the district attorney can decide how to proceed with the case.
“Domestic violence charges are always misdemeanors.”
Even if someone is charged with a domestic violence misdemeanor like destroying some of their partner’s belongings while he or she was out, thatmisdemeanor can be elevated to a felony if that person has already been convicted three times as a domestic violence offender. A class 5 felony can carry 1 to 3 years of prison time, making this a case that needs to be taken very seriously.
“DV convictions will likely just result in a fine.”
In many cases, judges will rule that prison is a disproportionate sentence for someone convicted of domestic violence. However, that doesn’t mean the convicted person is just going to get off with a slap on the wrist and a fine. Colorado requires that any sentence imposed by a court in a domestic violence case must include a treatment program and treatment evaluation. Even low-level misdemeanors typically require about 36 one-hour sessions over the course of 36 weeks. Additionally, being convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor means that you will have a permanent criminal recordand that if you are charged with any other domestic violence crimes, that first conviction will be taken into account and likelyincrease the penalties you face.
As such, all domestic violence charges need to be taken very seriously, and anyone facing this kind of charge needs to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine their best course of action.
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.