What constitutes domestic violence in Colorado?

While domestic violence in Colorado is not a crime in itself, it does come with mandatory consequences.

Domestic violence is any violent act or even a threat of a violent act against someone with whom the alleged offender has had an intimate relationship. The state actually takes this definition a little further, noting that domestic violence includes situations in which someone commits a crime against another person, animal, or property with the intent to do any of the following against someone with whom he or she had an intimate relationship:

  • Punish
  • Intimidate
  • Control
  • Coerce
  • Revenge

For example, the state may consider it domestic violence if someone breaks a former spouse's property as a threat or out of anger. Based on these terms, there is no shortage of acts that could be considered domestic violence.

How does the state define "intimate relationship"?

The law interprets several different situations in which people may have had an intimate relationship. For example, spouses, former spouses and either present or past couples fall into this category. Additionally, two people who have a child together, regardless of the terms of their relationship, are considered to have had an intimate relationship.

What happens when someone is accused of domestic violence?

Colorado is a mandatory arrest state, which means that if a law enforcement officer believes that domestic violence has taken place, he or she must immediately arrest the alleged offender. Following the arrest, a mandatory restraining order will be issued preventing any contact between the two parties. Lastly, it is important to note alleged victims cannot press or drop charges. The decision to prosecute a case is left solely in the hands of the government. Prosecutors are not allowed to dismiss a case unless they can make a good faith representation to a court that they cannot under any circumstance prove the case.

What are the penalties for domestic violence?

Domestic violence itself not a standalone crime; instead, it is a description that can enhance the sentence of anyone convicted of the related act. Someone who has been charged with a crime that involves domestic violence may face incarceration, probation, or both. Additionally, anyone who has been convicted of a domestic violence related crime and sentenced to probation will have to complete a treatment program of at least 36 classes.

Other consequences of a conviction could include a loss of employment and a change in parenting time, if the accused has children. Under Colorado and federal law, anyone convicted of a domestic violence related crime is permanently prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.

Is domestic violence a felony or a misdemeanor?

Because domestic violence is not a standalone crime, the criminal act itself - such as physical assault - will determine the level of the charge. However, someone who violates a protection order in Colorado will be charged with a misdemeanor. Further, the law states that anyone who has three prior domestic violence related convictions is considered to be a habitual offender and the new charge could automatically become a felony. That charge carries a sentence of one to three years in prison and a fine up to $100,000.

Domestic violence related charges in Colorado are serious matters that necessitate a strong defense. Anyone who has questions about this issue should speak with an attorney.