Strict Colorado Domestic Violence Law Has Wide-ranging Penalties
Domestic violence charges in Colorado will likely mean the accused must give up firearms. A restraining order may also require finding a new place to live.
Prosecutors in Colorado treat accusations of domestic violence seriously. Even a charge can affect contact with children, pending custody determinations in a family court setting and possession of firearms used for hunting.
The legal definition of domestic violence is the “act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.” It also includes 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. An intimate relationship is broad and extends to unmarried couples and parents of a child even if they never lived together.
In all criminal cases, there is the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the bond conditions in domestic violence cases are in themselves serious. The Colorado statute requires mandatory arrest. Release from custody requires a hearing in front of a judge and posting a bond. After a long week, a heated argument on a Friday evening can mean a weekend in custody before bonding out.
Pre-trial release conditions in domestic violence cases
An individual has the right to bail. In addition to the typical initial hearing considerations, such as severity of the offense and flight risk, courts in domestic violence case look at some of the following factors:
- Prior criminal history
- Likelihood of retaliation and access to a victim
- History of substance or alcohol use
- Weapons possession
After posting bond, pre-trial supervision often requires weekly check-ins and random blood alcohol testing.
The court will also issue a mandatory restraining order and no contact order at the initial bond hearing. This prevents the person charged from being in contact with the victim of the offense. Unless a motion to modify bond is filed, this no contact order will remain in effect until the “final disposition.” The end of the case is a dismissal or acquittal of the charges or the completion of jail time and probation. The no-contact order prohibits all direct or indirect communication. It requires one to find a different place to live until the no contact order is lifted.
Possession of firearms
The no-contact order will prohibit possession of firearms even in a pending case. It can require cancelling a planned elk or deer hunting trip.
There are specific requirements imposed by the Court for relinquishing all firearms and ammunition. Often it is less than 72 hours from posting bond. It may be possible to have a law enforcement agency store your firearms, but in some circumstances, guns may need to be sold to a dealer or private party.
Trial and possible penalties for a conviction
Taking a domestic violence charge to a jury trial can be complicated if a prior charge exists. Colorado statutes allow the admission of similar conduct evidence at trial. The prosecutor has to show that the prior acts and the present evidence are similar in some way – i.e. a pattern of behavior. This similar conduct evidence can be very detrimental in a jury trial.
A criminal sentence can include jail time. Often home detention is not an option in domestic violence cases. If convicted, a person must complete a domestic violence evaluation and complete the recommended domestic violence treatment program. This is generally a six- to nine-month class that meets weekly. It is virtually impossible to plead guilty or nolo contendere to a lesser offense without a domestic violence sentence enhancer.
A domestic violence charge can easily affect a family law case and custody decision. In family court, there is no presumption of innocence. Often judges tend to rule against someone with a pending domestic violence case.
When accused of domestic violence, contact an experienced defense attorney immediately. A lawyer can assist in building a solid defense and obtaining the best possible outcome.