Domestic Violence

What is considered Domestic Violence in Colorado?

“Domestic violence” means an act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship. “Domestic violence” also includes any other crime against a person, or against property, including an animal, or any municipal ordinance violation 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.

What qualifies as an intimate relationship?

“Intimate relationship” means a relationship between spouses, former spouses, past or present unmarried couples, or persons who are both the parents of the same child regardless of whether the persons have been married or have lived together at any time.

Is it is a separate crime?

No.  There is no crime of domestic violence in Colorado. Rather any crime can be charged as an act of DV if law enforcement or district attorney believes it meets the definition. That includes anything from littering to murder. Some of the most common crimes charged as DV include assault, criminal mischief, physical harassment, phone harassment, stalking, and protection order violations. However, almost any crime can be charged as an act of DV.

What is the punishment for Domestic Violence?

Since it is not a separate crime there is not a presumptive length of sentence for someone found guilty of DV. So if you were convicted of misdemeanor criminal mischief as DV you'd be eligible to go to jail based on the criminal mischief charge. Similarly if you found guilty of felony menacing as DV you could go to prison based on the menacing count. A conviction for DV would require DV counseling as a condition of probation.

What are the implications of the DV tag during the initial investigation?

If law enforcement has probable cause to believe a crime occurred and that it was an act of DV they must arrest the person they believe is responsible. That person cannot bond out of jail until they have seen a judge. Law enforcement cannot issue a summons in lieu of arrest in a DV case.

What is a mandatory arrest?

In Colorado, law enforcement is required to investigate any accusation of DV. If they find probable cause exists (a 51% likelihood) that a crime occurred they MUST arrest the accused. They can never simply write a ticket or summons. A person charged with a crime involving DV must see a judge who will set bond and issue a protection order.

What is a dual arrest?

In certain circumstances law enforcement may arrest both parties involved in a dispute and charge each with DV. It is highly important to get legal representation early so they you can have an effective advocate to speak to the prosecutor. Many times one or the other person charged may have their case dismissed if it can be shown that the other person was the primary aggressor.

What happen if you get arrested for DV?

A person accused of DV will be held at a county jail until they can see a judge. Often that is the next day. However, if you are arrested on Friday that can be the next Monday or even the Tuesday if it is a long weekend. Certain jurisdictions do hold Court on Saturday and/or Sunday where bond can be set. Smith & Weidinger can often appear at this weekend court appearances. This first hearing is often one of the most vital and it is vital to have a strong advocate.

What is bond? How is it set?

Bond is what the Courts use to ensure compliance with Court orders and appearance at Court. In some circumstances a Personal Recognizance (PR) bond may be set. That simply means the accused can sign a form that says that he or she will abide by Court orders and return to Court. In other situations a surety or cash bond may be set. If it is a monetary bond then that can be posted by the defendant, a family member or friend, or through the use of a bail bondsman. If someone fails to show up to Court or disobeys a court order that money may be ordered forfeited by a Judge. In Colorado, Judge are required to set bond in a way that protects the community and ensures that persons show up back at Court. They evaluate an accused's criminal history, the nature of the current allegations, the stability of a person's life in terms of housing and work, along with a host of other factors. It is important to have a strong advocate at this initial hearing.

Can bond be reduced once set?

Yes, a Defendant can apply to have bond reduced or modified. This can be done on your own (pro se) or via an attorney. Often the Court does not have very complete information when someone first appears at Court and an effective attorney can help get bond reduced by bringing positive things in someone's life to the Court's attention.

What is a protection order?

Along with bond, a Judge must issue a protection order in every case involving an allegation of DV. The protection order is essentially a restraining order. It can order a person not to have any contact with their kids, spouse, leave their home, wear a GPS tracker, abstain from alcohol, and many other infringements on your personal freedom. It is important to have a strong advocate that can minimize these orders that can have a devastating impact on your personal and/or working life.

Can a protection order be modified once issued?

Absolutely. You can always apply to a Judge to change a protection order. Under the Colorado Victims Rights Amendment the alleged victim of the crime must be consulted by the prosecutor and has a right to appear to speak to the Judge about the order. It is important to have strong advocacy when it comes to these vital issues.

What happens if someone is accused of a protection order violation?

This is another matter under Colorado law where it is a mandatory arrest. Law enforcement has no discretion and cannot issue a summons. The accused will be held in a county jail until they see a Judge who will decide what bond to set and whether or not additional conditions need to be added to the protection order. Violation of a Protection Order may be a crime of DV but it can also be charged as a ordinary non-DV crime depending on the circumstances.