Updated December 23, 2019
Domestic violence harassment in Colorado occurs when people intentionally torment their:
- Spouse or ex-spouse,
- Current or former significant other, or
Domestic violence harassment is a misdemeanor that usually carries up to 6 months in jail. While charges are pending, the defendant is subject to a protection order. But it may be possible to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
Below our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What counts as harassment?
- 2. What are the penalties?
- 3. Are there common defenses to this charge?
- 4. Are gun rights affected?
- 5. Can the criminal record be sealed?
- 6. What are the immigration consequences?
Colorado’s legal definition of harassment under 18-9-111 C.R.S. requires intent and action. The intent is to harass, annoy, or alarm another person. The action can be any of the following:
- Striking, shoving, kicking, or touching a person;
- Directing obscenities to a person in public;
- Directing obscenities to a person over the phone or online;
- Following a person in public;
- Threatening bodily injury or property damage over the phone or online;
- Causing the phone to ring repeatedly;
- Making repeated communications at inconvenient hours. And these communications invade and interfere with the victim’s privacy; or
- Taunting another in offensive and coarse language. And it is likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response.1
Domestic violence (DV) is not a separate crime from harassment. DV is an enhancement to harassment charges. Prosecutors add it when the alleged harasser has an “intimate relationship” with the victim. “Intimate relationships” do not include:
- Co-workers, or
- Platonic friends2
DV harassment is usually a class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado. The punishment is:
- Up to 6 months in jail (or probation), and/or
- A fine of $50 to $750
In addition, the judge can order the defendant to submit to a DV evaluation and treatment. The judge may also extend or impose a restraining order.
DV harassment becomes a class 1 misdemeanor if the motive involves a person’s:
- Ancestry, or
- National origin
The increased sentence includes:
- 6 to 18 months in jail, and/or
- A fine of $500 to $5,0003
2.1. Repeat DV offenders
Defendants convicted of four DV-related crimes face prosecution for a separate offense: Being a habitual domestic violence offender. This is a class 5 felony, carrying:
- 1 to 3 years in Colorado State Prison (with mandatory 2-year parole), and/or
- A fine of $1,000 to $100,000
This sentence is in addition to any underlying DV penalties the judge imposed.4
Three common defenses to DV harassment charges include showing that:
- No harassment occurred;
- The defendant had no intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another; and/or
- The defendant was falsely accused.
3.1. No harassment occurred
What qualifies as harassment can be subjective. What seems annoying to one person may be endearing to another. Typical evidence in these cases include:
- Video recordings;
- Eyewitness accounts; and/or
- Voicemails, emails, or text messages
If the defense attorney can show the defendant’s behavior falls short of harassment, then the case should be dropped.
3.2. The defendant had no intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another
18-9-111 C.R.S. is an intent crime. Harassing behavior is not criminal if the defendant had no intent to harass.
It is often difficult for the D.A. to prove the defendant’s intent. State of mind is invisible, and prosecutors must rely on inferences. As long as the state has insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, charges should not stand.
3.3. The defendant was falsely accused
It is not uncommon for lovers or ex-lovers to hurl false accusations at each other. Sometimes the accusers are acting out of anger, revenge, or a misunderstanding. Sometimes they even fabricate false evidence — such as bullying emails or texts — to bolster their story.
In these cases, the defense attorney would try to show that the accuser has motives to lie. If the prosecutor can see the accuser’s credibility is questionable, the harassment charges may be dropped.
It depends on the case.
Federal law prohibits people convicted of domestic violence to possess firearms. But Colorado’s definition of harassment is broader than the federal definition. Therefore, some defendants convicted of DV harassment may still be allowed to keep their guns.
Note that defendants may need to give up their guns while there is a protection order against them. Violating a protection order (18-6-803.5 C.R.S.) is a misdemeanor. The sentence is up to $5,000 and/or up to 18 months in jail.5
Colorado convictions for DV harassment may never be sealed with one exception. If the case was in municipal court, the conviction may be sealed. But the defendant has to wait three years after the case ends. And during this waiting period, the defendant cannot pick up any new criminal cases.
Meanwhile, any DV harassment case that gets dismissed is sealable right away. It makes no difference which court the case was in.6
Learn about how to get a Colorado criminal record seal.
Domestic violence is potentially deportable.7 Consequently, non-citizens facing DV harassment charges should retain experienced counsel immediately.
The attorney may be able to get the charge dismissed. Alternatively, the attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce the offense to a non-removable crime.
Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Colorado.
Call a Colorado criminal defense attorney…
Accused of domestic violence harassment? We invite you to contact us for a free consultation. Just fill out the form on this page or call us at our convenient Denver home office:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver CO 80211
In Nevada? See our article on Harassment (NRS 200.571).
- 18-9-111 C.R.S.; see Bolles v. People, 189 Colo. 394, 541 P.2d 80 (1975).
- 18-6-800.3 C.R.S.
- 18-9-111 C.R.S.
- 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(III)(A) C.R.S.
- 18-6-803.5 C.R.S.
- 24-72-702 C.R.S.
- 8 USC 1227 (a)(2)(E)(1).