#1: The Colorado Domestic Violence Statute is CRS 18-6-800(3).
A common misconception is that Domestic Violence is a crime itself. Domestic Violence is actually a sentencing enhancer that increases the severity of the punishment for crimes that it accompanies. This classification is associated with three levels of crime; felonies, misdemeanors, and municipal charges. If convicted of a crime of domestic violence, you will be asked to complete domestic violence classes. Unlike DUI classes, Domestic Violence classes require graduation, meaning that you must show progress and aptitude to move on from certain stages. The shortest amount of time to be completed is six months, but generally, these courses are completed in 8-12 months.
#2: Common Domestic Violence Charges
Although a DV enhancement can be applied to any criminal charge or municipal ordinance violation, these are a few crimes that will commonly include the DV enhancement.
- Menacing (CRS 18-3-206)
- Assault (CRS 18-3-202 – 204)
- Harassment (CRS 18-9-111)
- Child Abuse (CRS 18-6-401)
- Unlawful Sexual Contact (CRS 18-3-404)
- Stalking (CRS 18-3-602)
#3: Protection Orders
Crimes of Domestic Violence will almost always result in a protection order. A protection order in Colorado is a court-issued demand. While a Domestic Violence defendant’s charges are pending, they will have a protection order in place that, at the minimum, prevents the defendant from harassing, threatening, intimidating, or tampering with witnesses and/or the alleged victim. Depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the allegation, many will be issued, at least initially, as a complete no-contact order. Some defendants may even be required to move out of the common home.
If the alleged criminal episode involved drugs or alcohol, the protection order may involve a ban on those substances. If these bans are in place, any evidence of consumption of banned substances can result in a violation of your protection order. Although protection orders lack a testing mechanism, bond conditions or pretrial decisions could implement one. If law enforcement finds proof of you with banned substances anywhere, you will be found in violation. For example, if your protection order bans alcohol and you are found at a party holding a beer, you are in violation.
If children witnessed or involved the alleged criminal episode, they may be included in the protection order as well, and the court may ban defendants from returning to their home if that is where the victims reside.
It is very important that defendants refrain from violating their protection order, as doing such could result in jail time pursuant to CRS 18-6-803.5. It could also lead to new bonds and new bail bond conditions that would be served consecutive to jail time.
#4: Modifying Protection Orders
Typically, one of the biggest concerns for defendants is modifying their protection orders so that they can see their significant others. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it may seem. It is important to remember that the district attorney assigned to domestic violence cases does not work for the victim; they work for the state. Often, the District Attorney and Court will decline to modify a protection order to allow contact absent extenuating circumstances, even if the defendant and alleged victim both wish to do so. It is important to be strategic in a request for modification, not asking for the court to do too much, only what is needed.
For example, if parents need to coordinate care for minor children, the court may modify the protection order to accommodate that need. In a case where the relationship between two parents remains acrimonious, but children are involved, the parents may be allowed to communicate between the Talking Parents Act.
#5: Second Amendment Rights
Federal law states that anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor under domestic violence loses their rights to own, purchase, or possess firearms forever. There exists in Colorado conflicting schools of thought among attorneys as to whether a deferred judgment constitutes a conviction under federal law. Each instance is fact-specific, and it is imperative that you retain qualified counsel to ensure that you are taking the correct steps to avoid being stripped of your second amendment rights.
Even if you are not a gun owner and do not desire to own guns, the Framers gave us ten rights in our bill of rights, and we should not be quick to give them up.
#6: Domestic Violence Mitigation
It is critical to begin early mitigation in all cases involving a domestic violence sentencing enhancer. Taking domestic violence classes before they are assigned both shows the court that you take the charges seriously and can help in plea negotiation. It is possible to get credit for classes previously taken if you decide to take a plea deal. You should always take in-person domestic violence classes, as most online classes falsely claim to be court-certified.
The only case in which you should take online classes is in the event that domestic violence courses in your area are not offered until a court instructs you to take them.
#7: Domestic Violence Penalties
The penalty will ultimately depend on the underlying charge since DV is just an enhancement. However, the enhancement does trigger a few additional consequences onto the received punishment.
- Mandatory Protection Order: this is put into place to separate the defendant and the accuser while the charges are pending. Some judges may extend the protection order, however, if the defendant is convicted.
- Mandatory Arrest: because Colorado is a mandatory arrest state, as soon as there is probable cause to suspect an individual of domestic violence, the police must arrest that individual even if the alleged victim does not want to press charges.
- Domestic Violence Classes: a judge may also order a treatment program including DV classes for the defendants to compete.
- Habitual Domestic Violence Offender: if a defendant is convicted of his/her fourth charge with a DV sentence enhancer, the defendant is now a habitual domestic violence offender. This is a class 5 felony with penalties including mandatory jail time, parole, and fines.
#8: Domestic Violence Defenses
When you are charged with a crime, there are a multitude of criminal defenses you and your attorney have to work with. A criminal defense is an argument or strategy that attempts to challenge the prosecution’s evidence in your case. The prosecution must prove every element of your case beyond a reasonable doubt.
These defenses are often how your attorney demonstrates that the prosecution cannot fulfill their burden of proof.
- Innocence/Denial: Perhaps your most simple defense in a criminal case is claiming you are innocent and did not commit the crimes you are charged with.
- Self Defense/Defense of Others: This defense may be used for crimes such as assault, battery, or murder in which the defendant used violence in response to violence coming from the victim, either in protection of themselves or others. Typically, to claim self-defense/defense-of-others, the defendant has to have used force that was reasonable or proportionate to that of the victim’s.
- Defense of Property: Similar to self-defense and defense-of-others, the defendant used force against the victim in protection of their property. However, the amount of force used can never be lethal.
Although there are many additional defenses, these are the defenses that are generally applicable in cases accompanied by a domestic violence sentencing enhancer.
Mr. Krizman is a criminal defense attorney in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in providing relentless defense for domestic violence, DUI, and drug crimes. He is a former public defender who has also worked for a district attorney and is licensed in the State of Colorado, and the United States Federal Court, District of Colorado. Mr. Krizman is a member of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Colorado Bar Association, Denver Bar Association, and Arapahoe County Bar Association. A Colorado native, he has a law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and a bachelor’s degree in Government and World Affairs from the University of Tampa. Call him today at 720.819.7317.