FAQ: What to Know about Colorado Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is not an uncommon crime to be accused of in Colorado – and it can be complicated to understand.

Once the ball gets rolling on domestic violence charges in Colorado, they are difficult to stop. This makes it even more important to comprehend domestic violence charges and your rights if you’re accused of this crime.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about domestic violence in Colorado, including how it is defined, how it is charged, and the penalties that can be faced if found guilty.

How Does Colorado Define Domestic Violence?

Colorado law defines domestic violence as a threatened act or act of violence on another person with whom the accused has an intimate relationship. This is a very broad definition, but the courts do break down what it means to have an intimate relationship with another person.

In Colorado, if you threaten to commit an act of violence or commit an act of violence against one of these people, it is considered a crime of domestic violence:

  • A spouse
  • A former spouse
  • Someone with whom you share a child
  • Someone with whom you’ve been intimately involved in the past
  • Someone with whom you are currently intimately involved

It’s important to note that domestic violence is not a crime itself, but an enhancement that can be given to a number of other crimes, impacting the sentence that you receive if convicted.

The crimes commonly charged with a domestic violence enhancement include:

  • Assault
  • Elder abuse
  • Stalking
  • False imprisonment
  • Harassment
  • Menacing
  • Sexual contact
  • Child abuse

A domestic violence enhancement can be applied to any crime against property or person when coercion, intimidation, or revenge is involved, so it’s important to consult an attorney if you find yourself with a domestic violence enhancement charge.


Will Police Arrest You For Domestic Violence?

In the state of Colorado, there is a policy of mandatory arrest if police have probable cause to believe that a crime involving domestic violence has occurred. Probable cause is established by the officers on the scene. If they suspect any indicators of domestic violence, then they will make an arrest.

What Should You Do If Arrested For Domestic Violence?

If arrested, you should be read your Miranda rights, which give you the right to remain silent. Invoke that right and do not answer questions until you have an attorney present.

What If The Victim Doesn’t Want Charges Pressed?

Once the ball has started rolling in domestic violence cases with an arrest, there is no stopping it. Even if the person accusing the other of domestic violence no longer wants to press charges, it is out of their hands.

Anyone arrested for domestic violence will be taken to jail, and they will stay there until they are given a bond by the judge. The case cannot be dismissed unless the prosecution thinks they cannot prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

What Does It Mean That Domestic Violence Is a Sentence Enhancer?

As mentioned, domestic violence is not a crime on its own. It is added to other felony and misdemeanor charges as a sentence enhancer. A sentence enhancer is an aggravating charge that impacts penalties, often making the potential sentence longer. It can also trigger other requirements as a part of the sentence such as domestic violence counseling.

What Penalties Can Be Faced If Convicted?

If you are convicted of a crime with domestic violence as an enhancement, your sentence depends on the underlying crime. However, you may be subject to the following requirements as a part of a domestic violence conviction:

  • Counseling and treatment with a focus on domestic violence
  • Mandatory orders of protection that will limit the contact you have with the victim and witnesses to the crime for the duration of your sentence
  • Probation that will vary by offense

It’s also not uncommon for a conviction of a crime, including domestic violence, to have an impact on opportunities for employment, parental rights, or even your ability to secure a loan. It can have a lasting and serious impact on several different aspects of your life.

What Penalties Can Be Faced If Convicted?

You may also be subject to restrictions that are federally mandated in regards to the ownership of firearms, employment by the federal government, citizenship status, and military service.

If you have multiple convictions of crimes involving domestic violence on your record, then you can also incur more severe penalties. You might be labeled a habitual domestic violence offender in Colorado, which is a Class 5 felony. That can result in up to three years of incarceration and fines of as much as $100,000.


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.