November 23, 2022
Domestic violence situations are almost never cut and dry.
If a law enforcement officer is called to a domestic violence disturbance, they have to rely on what they observe when they arrive at the scene as well as the accounts of the parties involved in order to determine who to arrest.
This can be troublesome for a number of reasons: what if one person lies about what happened? What if the victim damaged the aggressor’s property during the act of domestic violence? What if the victim loses his or her temper in the presence of police and becomes an aggressor?
In these cases, a victim of domestic violence can actually end up being arrested and charged with domestic violence just like the alleged perpetrator.
How is it possible for something like this to happen? Blame the laws of our state.
What Does “Domestic Violence” Mean in Colorado?
Our state defines domestic violence as “an act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.”
That definition is fairly clear when it comes to understanding an act of domestic violence. If a husband strikes his wife, a mother punches her child, or a girlfriend threatens her boyfriend with violence, it seems obvious who should be arrested, right?
However, Colorado wanted to be seen as extremely “tough” on domestic violence. Because of this, the law also says that domestic violence can include “any other crime against a person, or against property, including an animal…when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.”
This definition expands the meaning of domestic violence to include other crimes committed against a person, property, or animal if the crime is used as punishment or revenge.
For example, let’s say a wife discovers her husband has been cheating on her by checking the text messages on his phone. As an act of revenge, she destroys his cellphone. In this case, the wife can be arrested not just for damaging property, but also be labeled a domestic violence offender because the so-called victim was her husband and she committed a crime as a way to get revenge.
While that might not seem fair, it’s technically the law in our state.
How Can a Colorado Domestic Violence Victim Get Charged?
Back in 1998, Westword reported on Krystal, a woman who was heading to her domestic violence batterer class when her husband threw a glass of water in her face, called her names, and took away the keys to her car.
Krystal was attending a domestic violence treatment program due to a previous domestic violence incident. Krystal says her husband assaulted her during the prior incident, but the physical evidence seemed to prove that she had been the aggressor.
When the police arrived after Krystal’s husband threw water in her face, her husband said his wife was a dumb, crazy liar. A female officer tried to calm Krystal down, but her husband kept egging her on until finally she lost it and threatened to kill him.
Both Krystal and her husband were arrested, but because Krystal was on probation due to the prior domestic violence incident, she had to pay a fine and attend a 36-week batterer’s class, which would begin after she completed the 36-week batterer’s class she was already enrolled in.
Krystal’s husband didn’t suffer any further consequences.
This is just one example of many where a domestic violence victim ends up charged and labeled as a domestic violence offender. Until the current legislation is changed to account for these extenuating circumstances where a victim is pushed to his or her limits, we might continue to see victims in handcuffs.
If you are the victim of domestic violence and have been charged with a domestic violence crime, reach out to an experienced Colorado domestic violence attorney to fight for your rights.
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 designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.