In Colorado, domestic violence assault is inflicting bodily injury on a person with whom you share an intimate relationship. A conviction can lead to jail time, fines, mandatory domestic violence classes, a restraining order, and possibly the loss of gun rights.
Here are five key things to know:
- Domestic violence assault is not its own crime. It is prosecuted as criminal assault with a penalty enhancement.
- “Intimate partners” comprise current or former spouses, girlfriends or boyfriends, and co-parents. Platonic roommates do not count.
- Common examples of assault include punching, pushing, strangling, or throwing objects at.
- Prosecutors can still pursue criminal charges even if the victim recants.
- Typical defenses are that you acted in self-defense, you were falsely accused, or the incident was an accident.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. How does Colorado law define domestic violence assault?
- 2. How does the prosecutor prove that I am guilty of domestic violence assault?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. How do I fight the charges?
- 5. Related offenses
- 6. Further reading
1. How does Colorado law define domestic violence assault?
Under Colorado law, the definition of domestic violence is
“an act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.”1
Domestic violence can also involve threats of violence upon another person, property, or animal if it is 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.”2
An intimate relationship is
“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.”3
Meanwhile, assault in Colorado is the intentional, knowing, or reckless bodily injury to another person. (Bodily injury does not need to be serious to qualify as an assault.)4
Assault + intimate partner = domestic violence assault
Therefore, domestic violence assault is an assault committed between people in an “intimate relationship.” If you are suspected of domestic violence assault, you face a regulation assault charge but with added consequences related to the domestic violence.
Domestic violence assault calls to police result in mandatory arrests in Colorado, even if the “victim” does not want to press charges. In situations where you and an intimate (ex)partner allegedly assaulted each other, law enforcement may arrest you both, and you both may face charges of domestic violence.
2. How does the prosecutor prove that I am guilty of domestic violence assault?
In order to be convicted of domestic violence assault in Colorado under C.R.S. 18-3-202 through C.R.S. 18-3-204, the prosecutor must show both that:
- You committed assault (causing bodily injury to someone else); and
- The victim and you are or were in an intimate relationship (it is not necessary to show that the relationship was sexual).
Often the only evidence the D.A. has that there was an act of domestic violence is the victim statement. Therefore, many of these domestic violence cases are “he said/she said” scenarios.
3. What are the penalties?
In Colorado, domestic violence assault carries a range of penalties depending on the circumstances of the case:
|First-degree assault – intentionally causing a serious injury with a deadly weapon||class 3 felony: up to 32 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000|
|Second-degree assault – intentionally causing a serious injury without a deadly weapon||class 4 felony: 5 to 16 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.|
|Third-degree assault – negligently causing an injury with a deadly weapon||class 1 misdemeanor: up to 18 months in jail,and/or a fine of up to $1,000.5|
In addition, you face additional penalties due to the assault involving domestic violence, such as:
- Domestic violence treatment program
- Mandatory protection orders
- Drug or alcohol counseling
- Restrictions on owning or possessing a firearm
- Habitual domestic violence offender status
4. How do I fight the charges?
Here at Colorado Legal Defense Group, we have represented literally thousands of people charged with domestic violence assault. In our experience, the following four defenses are very persuasive with prosecutors, judges, and juries.
- You acted in self-defense or defense of others – You are allowed to use proportional physical force to fend off an immediate attack.
- The incident was an innocent accident – Even if the alleged victim was injured, you committed no crime if you did not touch them on purpose.
- You were falsely accused – It is not unusual for exes to levy fake allegations out of anger, revenge, or to get a leg up on child custody proceedings; some even self-inflict their own injuries to back up their story.
- The police lacked probable cause to arrest you – Often we can show that the police made a misjudgment and arrested the wrong person just by playing prosecutors the officers’ own bodycam.
If the assault occurred during a “heat of passion” moment – such as you walking in on your spouse with a lover – your domestic violence charges may be reduced to a lower class of felony.
In any case, we rely on such evidence as eyewitness accounts, surveillance video, and recorded communications from the accuser (such as texts and voicemails) to impeach their credibility. As long as there is reasonable doubt as to your guilt, we may be able to persuade the D.A. to drop the charges.
5. Related Offenses
5.1 Menacing, C.R.S. 18-3-206
Menacing involves the threat of physical force that places another person in fear of imminent serious injury. Menacing may be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor under Colorado criminal law; however, if a deadly weapon was involved, menacing could be charged as a class 5 felony.
5.2 Stalking, C.R.S. 18-3-602
Stalking involves making credible threats and repeatedly following, contacting, or communicating with a person or someone you have a relationship with. A first offense is a class 5 felony, and a second or subsequent offense is a class 4 felony.
6. Further reading
Immediate help and resources for victims of domestic violence:
- Call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233
- Domestic Violence Program, Colorado Department of Human Services
- SafeHouse Denver
- Family Tree Domestic Violence Services
- Project Safeguard
- Violence Free Colorado
- TESSA of Colorado Springs
For additional information, see our law firm’s articles on:
- Colorado domestic violence laws
- Domestic violence harassment
- Domestic violence menacing
- False imprisonment
- Unlawful sexual contact
- Sexual assault/rape
- Expunging criminal records
- Colorado’s mandatory reporting laws in child abuse cases
- What class of crime are domestic violence crimes in the state of Colorado?
- C.R.S. 18-6-800.3(1). See also Shelly Bradbury, Colorado’s domestic violence deaths spiked 44% in 2021, new report finds, Denver Post ().
- C.R.S. 18-6-800.3(2). See also HB 21-1255.
- C.R.S. 18-3-202 – 204. Note that any physical pain, illness or impairment may be considered bodily injury. Spiking a person’s drink with a drug without their consent is also a form of assault.
- Prior to March 1, 2022, 3rd degree assault carried up to 24 months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. SB21-271. See also People v. Ryan (Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division Six, 2022) 525 P.3d 673; Huffman v. City & Cty. of Denver (Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division Six, 2020) 465 P.3d 108.