Domestic violence assault in Colorado involves causing bodily injury to a victim in an intimate relationship with the defendant. A conviction for domestic violence assault results in a mandatory arrest and can lead to jail time, treatment programs, a restraining order, and could prevent the defendant from owning a firearm.
Domestic violence is criminal assault with enhanced penalties. In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. How does Colorado law define domestic violence?
- 2. How Does the Prosecutor Prove that I am Guilty of Domestic Violence?
- 3. What are the Penalties?
- 4. How Do I Fight The Charges?
- 5. Related Offenses
1. How does Colorado law define domestic violence?
In Colorado, domestic violence assault is not a separate criminal offense. An individual suspected of domestic violence assault may be charged with the crime of assault, with added charges if it involves domestic violence.
Assault in Colorado involves intentional, knowing, or reckless bodily injury to another person. Bodily injury does not need to be serious to qualify as an assault. 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.
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 threatened acts upon another person, property, or animal if it is used “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
Domestic violence results in mandatory arrest in Colorado. Even if the people involved do not want to press charges, at least one person will be arrested. In situations where two people assaulted each other, they both may face an arrest and charges for domestic violence.
2. How Does the Prosecutor Prove that I am Guilty of Domestic Violence?
In order to be convicted of domestic violence assault in Colorado under C.R.S. 18-3-202 through C.R.S. 18-3-202, the prosecutor must show both that:
- The person committed assault; and
- The victim and perpetrator had an intimate relationship.
Assault in Colorado can be charged in the first, second or third degree. Assault in the first degree in domestic violence cases may involve the use of a deadly weapon, causing serious bodily injury, use of strangulation, or under circumstances showing an extreme indifference to human life. Assault in the first degree is a class 3 felony. However, in some cases where the assault was committed in a “sudden heat of passion,” it may be charged as a class 5 felony. Assault in the third degree is a class 1 misdemeanor.
In order to include charges for domestic violence, the prosecutor also has to show the relationship between the victim and defendant qualifies as an intimate relationship. The intimate relationship could be current or it could have occurred in the past. It is not necessary to show a sexual relationship between the individuals to qualify as intimate.
3. What are the Penalties?
The penalties for domestic violence assault depend on the seriousness of the injury, type of assault, and the defendant’s domestic violence and criminal history. Assault in the first degree is the most serious charge, resulting in a class 3 felony. A class 3 felony for first-degree assault could result in up to 32 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000. Third-degree assault could result in up to 18 months in jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.4
In addition to the penalties for assault, the defendant may face additional penalties related to domestic violence. This could include:
- Domestic violence treatment program
- Restraining orders
- Drug or alcohol counseling
- Restrictions on owning or possessing a firearm
- Habitual domestic violence offender status
4. How Do I Fight The Charges?
There are a number of possible defenses to domestic violence assault charges. Possible defenses may include:
- Defense of others
- Lack of intent to cause injury
- No use of a deadly weapon
If the assault occurred during what might be considered a “heat of passion” moment, the charges may be reduced to a lower class of felony. Your Colorado criminal defense attorney will examine the evidence, conduct an investigation of the incident, and identify all available defenses in your case.
5. Related Offenses
Domestic violence assault charges are related to a number of similar offenses. These could be charged in place of, or in addition to domestic violence assault charges. Other charges related to domestic violence include stalking, domestic violence harassment, or domestic violence menacing. If the victim and defendant do not have an intimate relationship, the defendant may still be charged with simple assault or menacing.
5.1 Assault, C.R.S. 18-3-202
Assault involves intentional, knowing, or reckless bodily injury to another person. Assault is a criminal offense in the first, second or third degree, with assault in the first degree being the most serious charge. The degree of assault may depend on the seriousness of the injury, use of a deadly weapon, and whether the victim was a police officer, firefighter, or other official engaged in the course of their duties.
5.2 Menacing, C.R.S. 18-3-206
Menacing involves the threat of physical force that places another person in fear of imminent serious injury. Even if you never intended to actually harm another person, intentionally placing them in fear of injury may be considered menacing. Threatening the use of a deadly weapon, even if the defendant never had a weapon, could result in felony criminal charges.
Menacing may be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor; however, if a deadly weapon was involved, menacing could be charged as a class 5 felony. As a misdemeanor, menacing can result in up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. As a felony, menacing carries the possibility of up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Also learn about Colorado’s mandatory reporting laws in child abuse cases.
5.3 Stalking, C.R.S. 18-3-602
Stalking involves making credible threats and repeatedly following, contacting, or communicating a person or someone they have a relationship with. Even if the defendant does not make a threat, following, surveilling, or communicating with a person to cause them serious emotional distress may lead to charges for stalking. This includes contact with a person’s immediate family, significant other, or a person who has or had a continuing relationship.
Stalking in Colorado is a felony offense under “Vonnie’s Law.” A first offense is a class 5 felony and a second or subsequent offense is a class 4 felony. If stalking also involved violation of a protective order, the defendant could face additional penalties.
Also learn about the Colorado crime of false imprisonment.
If you were involved in a domestic violence incident that resulted in bodily injury to another person, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our Denver domestic violence attorneys can also assist with bail and release issues at any Colorado jail, including the Washington County Jail and the Douglas County Jail. Contact us today by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.
See our related article, What class of crime is domestic violence in 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.
- 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.