Domestic violence allegations can have a profound impact on your life. The consequences of a domestic violence charge threaten the functioning, well-being, and health of victims, those wrongfully accused, and the entire family system. Those facing these allegations should consult the Fort Collins domestic violence attorneys at Gerash Steiner & Blanton, P.C. We can help protect your rights and fight to get the best result possible for your case. Contact us today.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Colorado Revised Statute § 18-6-800.3 broadly defines domestic violence as an “act or threatened act of violence” against a person with whom you have had an intimate relationship. Further, domestic violence includes crimes against a person or property with the intent to coerce, control, intimidate, or seek revenge against someone with whom the actor has had an intimate relationship.
What Is an “Intimate Relationship” Under Colorado’s Domestic Violence Laws?
The law assumes an intimate relationship in cases where the parties are currently or were previously involved in a romantic relationship or shared parental status.
Some examples of intimate relationships include:
- Current or ex-spouses,
- Current or ex-girlfriend or boyfriends, and
- Co-parents, regardless of their cohabitation status.
Co-workers, roommates, and friends do not amount to an intimate relationship unless they meet one of the above classifications. However, this definition’s broad and somewhat subjective nature leaves much room for interpretation.
Colorado’s Mandatory Arrest Policy
In Colorado, domestic violence is not an independent crime. Instead, domestic violence is a sentencing enhancement or aggravator. Typically, domestic violence enhancement increases the punishment for any offense against a current or former spouse or dating partner. A domestic violence enhancement is especially consequential in light of Colorado’s status as a mandatory arrest state. As a mandatory arrest state, police must arrest anyone that they have probable cause to believe committed domestic violence. This applies even if the victim recants or refuses to press charges.
Further, domestic violence charges trigger mandatory protection orders. Those under active protection orders cannot consume alcohol and must avoid the accuser. In most cases, anyone accused of domestic violence may not possess firearms while under a protective order.
Fast-Tracked Domestic Violence Cases
Colorado Fast Track program accelerates prosecution of misdemeanor crimes involving domestic violence. The program provides early intervention and treatment to the alleged offender and helps to ensure the victim’s safety. Under the state’s Fast Track program, law enforcement fills out a police report on the same day the accused is arrested, and the accused enters an initial plea during the first court hearing.
What Are Common Domestic Charges in Fort Collins?
While the list is not exhaustive, 10 primary crimes often include domestic violence enhancement, including the following:
- Child abuse,
- Elder abuse,
- False imprisonment,
- Sexual assault,
- Sexual contact,
- Stalking, and
- Violating a restraining order.
A domestic violence enhancement can apply to any criminal charge or municipal ordinance violation.
The punishment for a domestic violence conviction depends on the underlying criminal charge. In some cases, the judge could order the accused to get an evaluation and complete a treatment program. Moreover, a judge could extend any protective orders. It is important to note that a fourth conviction with a domestic violence enhancement results in the accused being labeled as a “habitual domestic violence offender.”
Colorado Revised Statute § 18-6-801(7)(a) states that a fourth conviction for a domestic violence offense as a habitual domestic offender is a class 5 felony. Such a felony is punishable by:
- One to three years in state prison with two years of parole, and
- Fines ranging between $1,000 to $100,000.
Moreover, domestic abuse is a deportable offense. As such, non-citizens facing domestic violence charges should consult with a reputable domestic violence defense attorney who might be able to get the charge reduced or dismissed.
In addition to prison time, penalties, and immigration consequences, domestic violence charges carry a significant stigma. A baseless or exaggerated claim could affect many aspects of the accused’s life, such as:
- Job prospects,
- Educational opportunities,
- Professional licenses,
- Child custody rights,
- Ability to qualify for loans and housing, and
- Military status.
If you are accused of domestic violence charges and want to ensure your rights are protected, you must seek representation from an experienced Fort Collins domestic violence attorney.
Domestic Violence Defenses in Colorado
Fort Collins domestic violence attorneys are the best resource to help those accused of a crime understand their rights, remedies, and defenses. In most cases, the first line of domestic violence defense is to fight the underlying charge that led to the domestic violence enhancement.
Some common domestic violence defenses include asserting that the incident was:
- An act of self-defense,
- An accident, or
- The victim’s allegations are unfounded.
The domestic violence enhancement automatically disappears if the district attorney agrees to drop the underlying criminal charges.
In some situations, the accused may want to specifically fight the domestic violence enhancement. This often applies when the responding officer incorrectly presumes the parties are in a relationship or the victim falsely asserts an intimate relationship. Evidence that could help to refute claims of intimacy includes:
- Witness accounts;
- Written evidence, such as text messages and social media messages;
- Voicemails and voice messages;
- Video or home security recordings; and
- Therapist notes.
Even if the district attorney withdraws the enhancements, the court retains discretion in deciding whether to withdraw the protective order. Further, the underlying charge could remain.
What Happens if a Colorado Domestic Violence Victim Recants?
In many cases, a prosecutor is wary of alleged victims who recant their allegations. There tends to be a presumption that recantations occur primarily because of familial pressure or because victims rely on the accused’s income or support.
However, even if a domestic violence victim recants their statement, the district attorney could still pursue charges against the accused. Judges will only dismiss a domestic violence case if the prosecutor swears under oath that insufficient evidence exists to prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Speak with the Experienced Fort Collins Domestic Violence Lawyers at Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C., Today
If you are facing domestic violence charges in Fort Collins, it is imperative that you have a Fort Collins domestic violence lawyer who will take your case seriously. At Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C., we created our firm on the belief that everyone deserves an advocate and a voice. For more than three decades, we’ve been standing up for the rights of citizens facing serious felony and misdemeanor crimes, including domestic violence offenses. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, contact us today.