Domestic violence crimes impact the lives of many people.
Up until this point, the court system in Colorado focused on helping adult victims of domestic violence. They did not protect children to the same extent. Now, with the horrific death of a child at the hands of his father, the way the law operates for children in domestic violence situations is going to change.
In September 2019, a judge sent a boy home with his father, even though the father’s rights to the child had just been removed. It was meant to be a sort of goodbye overnight.
The problem is, the father had a history of domestic violence, and that night he murdered his son, then took his own life.
With the passing of House Bill 21-1099, child abuse will now be considered domestic violence in Colorado, helping to protect Colorado’s smallest citizens from domestic violence in the same way as adults.
Here’s all you need to know about the changes HB 21-1099 will make, as well as the current laws in the state for domestic violence.
The Changes Made by HB 21-1099
As the case of the murdered 10-year-old highlights, the current system doesn’t protect children as much as they need to be protected.
Traditionally, cases of child abuse are handled by the Department of Human Services. When abusers don’t leave marks or carry out their abuse in ways that are fully visible, such as bruises, case managers at DHS may not be aware that abuse is happening.
One of the most important ways that HB 21-1099 changes things: it will provide better training for DHS employees and other mandatory child abuse reporters in the state. The goal is to help them spot child abuse better, including psychological abuse.
It also will create a domestic violence task force at DHS. This is a group of people who undertake the task of defining child abuse in the context of domestic violence law.
Domestic Violence Laws in Colorado
Colorado is a state where police are required to arrest anyone believed to have committed domestic violence – otherwise known as a mandatory arrest.
Even if victims don’t want any charges pressed, police will arrest the accused. They will also instate a protective order to help keep the domestic violence victim safe.
However, domestic violence in Colorado is not a crime itself. It’s often used to enhance other crimes, such as assault, harassment, stalking, or false imprisonment. Any criminal charge in Colorado can have a domestic violence charge added to it.
Domestic Violence Penalties
If domestic violence is added on to your charges, the sentence will be based on the foundational charge. Domestic violence is merely an enhancement.
This means that, if you’re convicted of assault, you will be sentenced for assault. The domestic violence charge may carry with it mandatory domestic violence treatment and counseling, as well as an extension of protective orders.
A fourth conviction for a crime with domestic violence enhancement assigns a person the “habitual domestic violence offender” label under the law. That means additional state jail time and fines will be added on to the foundational crime as a Class 5 felony.
Hopefully, HB 21-1099 will help protect everyone in the community. It can also aid in case interventions to help get people the treatment they need.
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.