Domestic violence is a widespread crime throughout Colorado and the United States as a whole. Recent studies revealed that close to half of all murders of women in this country are done at the hands of a current or former romantic partner. Often, the conversation after a mass shooting turns to the connection between domestic violence and other crimes committed with a deadly weapon.
Our high rates of domestic violence have recently put a spotlight on these crimes, so when someone is accused of domestic violence in Colorado, these accusations are taken very seriously. No one in the Colorado criminal justice system wants domestic violence rates to be any higher, so convicted individuals may be sentenced to years behind bars.
If you have been accused, it is crucial to fight back against these charges to prevent spending years in prison. A domestic violence lawyer can help you build the right defense strategy for your particular case.
As you start to build your strategy and prepare for your case, you should know the charges that you might be up against. The more knowledge you have about domestic assault and domestic violence laws in Colorado, the better you can defend yourself in court.
Domestic Violence Is Not a Separate Crime in Colorado
Before we dive into the different types of domestic assault charges in Colorado, you should know that domestic violence is not considered a separate crime. Many states have different charges and penalties for domestic violence (assault, battery, harassment, stalking, etc.) listed in their laws.
Colorado legislates domestic violence differently. If someone commits assault, they may be charged with an assault crime. If the victim is a spouse, significant other, roommate, or family member, the defendant will still face assault charges. However, an “aggravating factor” may be tacked onto the assault crime. Think of the relationship between the assailant and victim as an enhancement to the crime.
How Domesticity Enhances Colorado Sentencing
There are three degrees of assault crimes that defendants may face in Colorado. If a domestic relationship is present, additional penalties will be added on to the sentence. Those penalties may include:
- House arrest
- Treatment programs
- Loss of firearm rights
- Protection orders
Bail may also be denied to habitual domestic violence offenders. Keep these additional penalties in mind as you read about the three degrees of assault charges in Colorado.
Degrees of Colorado Domestic Assault
Third Degree Domestic Assault
The degrees of assault and domestic assault are based on the severity of the violence. The least severe assault crimes result in third degree assault charges. Someone in Colorado commits third degree assault when they:
- Intentionally or recklessly cause bodily injury
- Negligently cause bodily injury through the use of a deadly weapon
The intention of the defendant and the presence or use of a deadly weapon are both important to note in assault cases.
Third degree assault is a class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado. Penalties include up to 18 months behind bars and up to $5,000 in fines.
Second Degree Domestic Assault
The charge is increased to a second degree domestic assault if the person:
- Intentionally causes serious bodily injury to any other person
- Intentionally causes bodily injury to any other person through the use of a deadly weapon
- Causes bodily injury to a peace officer or protected employee with the intention of stopping the employee from performing their duties
Note the last part of the bullet point. If you are accused of assaulting your significant other and they are a protected employee (firefighter, emergency medical service provider, etc.) you might face more severe charges depending on the circumstances.
Second degree domestic assault is a class 4 felony in Colorado. Penalties include up to six years behind bars and up to $500,000 in fines. The charges and penalties will be reduced, however, if the court determines the domestic assault is a “crime of passion.”
First Degree Domestic Assault
The most severe degree of domestic assault occurs when someone intentionally causes serious bodily injury to another person through the use of a deadly weapon. First degree domestic assault is a class 3 felony in Colorado. Penalties include up to 12 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines. Like second degree domestic assault, the charges will be reduced if the court determines that the crime was a “crime of passion.”
Arguing that the assault was a “crime of passion” is just one defense strategy that you may be able to use in order to get reduced penalties or dropped charges. Remember, the best strategy is to fight back aggressively and with the help of an experienced defense lawyer.
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.