Once the wheels of a domestic violence charge are set in motion, it can be hard to stop the case from going forward—even if the alleged victim wants the charges dropped. Although that sounds unreasonable to some people, the reasoning behind this strict law is based on historical findings about domestic abuse and victim safety. Let’s look at our state’s domestic violence laws a little more closely so that you understand what you’re up against if you or a loved one is currently facing domestic violence charges.
Colorado Has Mandatory Arrest Laws
The first thing that you need to understand is that Colorado has a mandatory arrest law for domestic violence. That just means that if a police officer has probable cause to believe that a domestic violence crime has occurred, he or she must arrest the alleged perpetrator on the spot. The alleged victim does not necessarily have to have called the police for this to happen. If, for example, a neighbor called the police to report that they overheard a loud and heated argument in your house, a police officer could still make an arrest.
Our state first implemented this strict mandatory arrest policy based on the concern that some domestic violence victims might not pursue charges either because they want to protect their partner or are scared of suffering future violence if they do come forward but the police do not make an arrest.
Early studies of mandatory arrest did show that this was the best way to deter perpetrators from committing future acts of violence, but more recent research has shown that mandatory arrest laws actually put victims at greater risk for experiencing negative physical and mental effects. Nevertheless, Colorado is currently standing by the mandatory arrest policy, and if police arrive at your house because they believe domestic violence has occurred, you and your partner cannot just “talk them out of” making an arrest, even if you believe the situation is a misunderstanding.
The State, Not the Victim, Presses Charges for Domestic Violence
Once someone has been arrested for domestic violence, it is the state that presses charges, meaning that it is not up to the alleged victim to decide whether or not the case goes forward. The alleged victim can come forward and say that they misrepresented the facts when the police arrived at the house, or that the neighbor who reported domestic violence misunderstood the situation, but this won’t make a difference. Even the district attorney cannot decide to drop the charges, unless there is insufficient evidence for them to prove that an act of domestic violence ever occurred.
An alleged victim who does not want to cooperate with the prosecution may decide that they don’t want to appear in court for the trial, which is within their rights, as long as they have not been served a subpoena. Many times when this happens, the case is dismissed. However, just because the alleged victim refuses to cooperate with the prosecution doesn’t guarantee that the alleged perpetrator will avoid a conviction. It all comes down to the evidence that the prosecutor is able to present without the victim’s testimony. For example, if the alleged victim called 911 in the middle of a heated argument and the alleged perpetrator can be heard yelling and making threats in the background, this recording could be introduced as evidence.
The Best Way to Fight Charges Is to Work with a Domestic Violence Attorney
The consequences of a domestic violence conviction are serious, and may include fines, jail time, and mandatory domestic violence treatment, even if the person convicted of domestic violence does not seem to present an ongoing threat. Because of our state’s strict domestic violence laws, many people facing this charge mistakenly believe that there is little they can do to prevent themselves from being convicted and facing these harsh penalties. But just because an alleged victim can’t stop the case from going forward doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to fight the charges.
If you are the alleged perpetrator or the alleged victim in a domestic violence case and you believe the charges should be dropped, the best thing you can do is contact a Denver domestic violence attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will look at the details of your case and work to show that there is not sufficient evidence for a domestic violence charge, potentially negotiating with the prosecutor to have your charges reduced or dropped altogether.
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.