September 19, 2023
Domestic violence in Colorado is not a crime in and of itself. It’s an aggravating factor or sentence enhancement in cases that involves offenses against those with whom a person is in an intimate relationship.
There’s a lot to understand about domestic violence in our state, and a lot of information to wade through. That may be why there are so many misconceptions about domestic violence in the state.
Here are a few of the facts about domestic violence charges in Colorado, including what the consequences of a domestic violence conviction can be and how domestic violence enhancements work.
What Are Domestic Violence Charges?
One thing that people often get wrong is that domestic violence is a crime all by itself. While that may be true in some states, as mentioned above, Colorado considers it a sentence enhancer or aggravating factor in specific types of crimes.
The most common crimes charged with domestic violence as an enhancement include:
- Sexual assault
- Violation of a restraining order
- Elder abuse
- False imprisonment
- Child abuse
- Sexual contact
However, it’s important to note that domestic violence can be used as an enhancement to any charge, not simply the ones named here. Even crimes against property or animals can be subject to domestic violence enhancement, provided they occur against someone with the defendant has or had an intimate relationship.
What Is an Intimate Relationship under Colorado Law?
The law defines an intimate relationship as one where the two parties share either a romantic attachment or parental status. Often, this is defined as spouses or ex-spouses, those in a romantic relationship together or those that have been, and anyone who shares a child – even children that are adopted.
Colorado Domestic Violence Cases are Fast-Tracked
In cases that don’t involve domestic violence, several weeks can elapse between when an arrest is made and arraignment for the crimes. Domestic violence cases are not treated that way.
They are what is called “fast-tracked,” meaning police will fill out a report on the same day they make an arrest for domestic violence-related charges, and an initial plea is entered by a defendant at the first court hearing.
The Penalty Enhancements for Colorado Domestic Violence Can Be Harsh
The underlying charge in a case will have the biggest impact on the sentence, but domestic violence offenders that are habitual can face a Class 5 felony for domestic violence. That can result in up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $100,000. That sentence is in addition to the underlying crime being charged.
Even for those who aren’t habitual offenders, sentence enhancements for domestic violence often include completing a domestic violence treatment program, as well as extensions to any restraining order that may be in place that bars the defendant from contacting the victim.
It’s also important to note that there are consequences outside the justice system for having a domestic violence conviction on your criminal record as well. It can impact the type of job opportunities available to you, your status in the military if you’re a member, child custody, any professional licensures, or even make it more difficult to secure loans or housing.
Can the Victim Recant Statements to Have Domestic Violence Enhancements Dropped in CO?
It is not left up to the victim to determine whether someone is prosecuted for a crime involving domestic violence. There are a variety of reasons for this.
In many cases, they may feel pressured by their family to take back their statements. Or they want the perpetrator to be released from jail so they can come back into the household and return to work.
So even if a victim recants their statements, prosecutors may move forward with charges if they believe they have enough evidence. A court takes these cases very seriously and will not drop charges unless the prosecutors testify under oath that they don’t believe they have enough evidence to prove guilt.
Will Colorado Domestic Violence Result in Deportation?
If the alleged perpetrator is not a citizen, then a charge for a crime involving domestic violence can result in deportation. That is why it’s vital that anyone — especially non-citizens — consult with an attorney.
Domestic violence is a serious issue, but even if you are accused of it, you have rights. Make sure you understand the charges against you and that your rights are being upheld during every part of the process.
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.