We’re Not Married – Why Am I Facing CO Domestic Violence Charges?

Acts of domestic violence aren’t always between only a husband and wife. Individuals can face domestic violence charges even when they are not married. In fact, there are even some circumstances in which the perpetrator or victim isn’t even (and have never been) romantically involved.

So let’s begin by addressing who is protected by Colorado domestic violence laws.

Who’s Protected Under Colorado Domestic Violence Law?

The criminal code defines domestic violence (DV) as real or threatened violence against a person who is involved intimately with the offender. That means that a variety of relationship types are protected against acts of domestic violence under the legislation.

These protected groups can include:

  • Current or former spouses/partners
  • Common-law partners
  • Co-parents (those who have children together)
  • Co-habitants (people who simply live in the same home)

Nearly any crime may be considered an act of domestic violence when it is used to control, punish, coerce, intimidate or seek revenge against any of these protected people.

Domestic Violence Charges in Colorado

Despite legally defining the act of domestic violence, the state of Colorado does not actually have a statute that specifically addresses DV.

Instead, domestic violence in the state of Colorado is used as an enhancement to other statutes. In other words, there are a variety of other offenses that can have penalties enhanced when committed through the lens of domestic violence.

There are certain criminal offenses that are more commonly enhanced by domestic violence charges due to the nature of the crimes. Let’s take a closer look at five of them.


There are various degrees of assault, ranging from third to first degree. However, all degrees of assault share the common element of knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm or injury toward another person.

Serious cases of assault are known as aggravated assault, and these carry stricter penalties. Assault with a deadly weapon is an example of this. Assault charges range from misdemeanors to felonies depending on the circumstances.


An individual may be guilty of harassment if they commit relevant offenses with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person.

Some of these relevant offenses may include:

  • Striking, shoving or pushing another person
  • Directing obscene language or gestures at another person
  • Following another person in a public setting


Stalking can be defined as repeated harassment towards another person. An offense is considered to be stalking if it fulfills any of the following criteria.

Denver Stalking Charges

Repeated Following

This is what you typically think of when you hear the term “stalking.” It describes an individual that, under credible threat and in connection with the said threat, an individual repeatedly follows or approaches another person, their family or a person that has an ongoing relationship with them OR  places another person under surveillance.

Repeated (and Unwanted) Communication

Under credible threat and in connection with the said threat, an individual repeatedly makes some form of communication towards another person, their family or a person that has an ongoing relationship with them that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.

A first offense of stalking is charged as a class 5 felony. Repeated offenses of stalking are considered class 4 felonies.

Trespass, Tampering, and Other Criminal Mischief

An individual may be guilty of criminal mischief if they knowingly or purposely cause damage to property owned by another.

Depending on the circumstances, the charges for criminal mischief can range from a class 3 misdemeanor all the way to a class 2 felony.

Domestic violence enhancements are then applied if the victim was of an applicable relationship type.

False Imprisonment

An individual commits false imprisonment if they knowingly detain or imprison another person without their consent and without proper authority.

False imprisonment is classified as a class 2 misdemeanor but may be bumped up to a class 5 felony depending on the circumstances.

Domestic Violence Penalties in Colorado

If a person commits a criminal offense and has their crime enhanced with domestic violence charges, they may face additional sentencing.

These additional sentences may consist of some of the following:

  • A person may be sentenced to complete a domestic violence treatment program
  • A person may be sentenced to house arrest (provided that the offender and victim do not share the same living space)
  • Additional factors are considered before granting probation (safety of the victim, children, etc.)
  • If a person has 3 or more prior domestic violence convictions, they may be charged as a “habitual domestic offender” which carries stricter penalties
  • Offenders may have their rights to possess firearms and ammunitions revoked

Domestic Violence Penalties in Colorado

In addition, acts of domestic violence can be charged at a federal level according to the Violence Against Women Act.

It is important to understand that not all domestic acts of violence are between husband and wife. Offenders may face domestic violence charges if they commit certain acts against any protected group.



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.