September 19, 2023
Domestic violence is an issue in Colorado, as it is in many other places. However, Colorado treats domestic violence crimes differently than you may find in other places. Since the state considers it not an independent crime, it is considered an aggravator of another crime.
It’s unfortunate that you cannot discuss domestic violence in the state without discussing child abuse. The two are linked since domestic violence is an issue that impacts the whole family unit. If there is violence between intimate partners with children in the picture, that violence often leaks out to them – and child abuse charges can result.
Here is what you need to know about the link between domestic violence and child abuse in Colorado, including how the state treats child abuse in the context of domestic violence and what that can mean for anyone guilty of this crime.
Domestic Violence: What Is It?
Domestic violence in Colorado is a crime that occurs between those in an intimate relationship. The state recognizes intimate relationships as those of two people who have been or are currently married, those who have a child in common, and those who have dated or are currently dating.
As mentioned, domestic violence in Colorado is not a crime on its own but rather an enhancement – which means the sentencing can be much more severe for the underlying crime if domestic violence is an aggravating factor.
Some of the most common crimes that include domestic violence enhancement are:
Domestic violence can be an enhancement to any criminal charge. It’s up to the prosecutor to decide. If a person is found guilty of the underlying crime, and there’s a domestic violence enhancement, the judge will often order the defendant to undergo treatment for domestic violence.
However, anyone with four or more convictions involving domestic violence will be labeled as a habitual domestic violence offender. This is a Class 5 felony and can result in up to three years in incarceration and fines of as much as $100,000.
Child Abuse: What Is It?
Several acts in Colorado can be seen as child abuse. They include but are by no means limited to:
- Physical or emotional abuse that causes injury to the health or life of the child
- Allowing a child to be placed unreasonably in a situation that poses a threat to their life or health
- Engaging in conduct that results in a lack of proper medical care, malnourishment, mistreatment, cruelty, serious bodily injury, or death to a child
How a person guilty of child abuse is penalized in the state depends on various factors. The victim’s age, the result of the abuse to their physical health, and whether or not a parent knowingly acted negligently or recklessly all factor into the penalties.
The state also considers the crime to be of extraordinary risk, which carries even greater penalties. The penalties can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on other circumstances in the case.
The Difference Between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse
As you can see from the distinction between the two crimes above, domestic violence is an act against an intimate partner, while child abuse is a threat to a child’s life or injury.
However, it’s easy to see how the lines between these two things can get blurred. In violent households where abuse against an intimate partner is the norm, a child is bound to witness domestic violence between adults. Under family law in the state, judges can consider the witnessing of violence to cause harm to the health of a child.
It may not automatically be child abuse when the child sees one adult be violent toward the other, but it’s not something courts will simply skip over, either. If there was a threat to the child and their wellbeing, it might also end in child abuse charges. If there is a charge of child abuse against one parent, then it can also have a domestic violence enhancement added to the sentencing.
Both domestic violence and child abuse are something the state of Colorado takes seriously. You cannot ignore how each of these crimes can be linked so that the court will deal with each case individually. That’s why you need an experienced attorney on your side to help navigate this complex legal territory.
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. Countless legal organizations have recognized Mr. Martinez 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 and is Lead Counsel rated.