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Domestic violence crimes in Colorado occupy a unique space. That’s because domestic violence isn’t an independent crime in and of itself. Instead, it serves as a sentencing enhancement for other crimes.
Up to this point, it’s been asbent as an enhancement for certain crimes that seem like they should fall under domestic violence, such as child abuse.
House Bill 21-1099 seeks to change this. It would include child abuse in domestic violence laws in the state. Essentially, the bill strives to protect children from domestic violence as much as adults are already protected.
Here’s what you need to know about HB 21-1099, what it will do, and what the current laws are against domestic violence in Colorado.
Investigations in high-profile murders of children at their parents’ hands have shown that the current system often fails to protect children.
The Department of Human Services handles child abuse cases. They’re often ill-prepared to manage abusers, especially when abuse doesn’t manifest in visible ways like bruises or broken bones.
The most critical part of HB 21-1099 goes beyond providing legal protections to children from domestic violence. The bill also seeks to support better training for mandatory reporters of domestic violence and child abuse. It would provide more extensive training for caseworkers to help them grasp different types of domestic violence, such as control and psychological abuse.
As a mandatory arrest state, police in Colorado are required to arrest anyone they believe has committed domestic violence. Even if the victim doesn’t want to press charges, the defendant will be arrested and a protection order instated to keep the victim safe.
As mentioned, domestic violence is seen as an enhancement to other crimes in Colorado. Most often it is used to enhance crimes such as:
It’s important to note that a domestic violence charge can apply to any criminal charge in Colorado, even if the crime is against property or pets.
A domestic violence defendant always has a protection order taken out against them in Colorado. The defendant cannot go near or contact the victim during an active order.
If they fail to comply, they face a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 18 months behind bars and fines of as much as $5,000.
If charged with a crime that includes domestic violence, your sentence depends on the foundational charge.
With a domestic violence enhancement, you may be ordered by the court to complete a domestic violence treatment program. The judge may also extend restraining orders.
Being convicted of a crime for a fourth time with a domestic violence enhancement will result in the label of “habitual domestic violence offender”. That can result in a Class 5 felony, which is punishable by up to three years in state jail and as much as $100,000 in fines. That’s in addition to the sentence for the underlying crime if found guilty.
If convicted of a crime with domestic violence as an enhancement, you may do more than spend some time in jail and pay some fines.
Another penalty for domestic abusers involves stripping gun rights stripped for the duration of an active restraining order. That means any firearms you own must be submitted to law enforcement or another party. After the restraining order ends, either through lifting or expiration, the defendant’s gun rights can be reinstated.
However, anyone convicted of a violent misdemeanor or felony with domestic violence permanently loses the right to own a firearm.
Also, if the defendant is not a U.S. citizen, they can be deported for the crime. That’s another reason why it’s crucial to have an experienced attorney on your side if facing these charges.
A conviction of a crime with a domestic violence enhancement will stay on your criminal record forever. It can have a huge impact on your life. It’s important to understand any charges against you and what can make your defense in court.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020 and is Lead Counsel rated.