Domestic violence in Colorado is not treated as an independent crime. Rather, DV is a sentencing enhancement. It increases the punishment for any offense against current or former spouses or dating partners.
Colorado is a mandatory arrest state, which means police must arrest anyone they have probable cause to believe committed domestic violence. It does not matter if the alleged victims recant or wish not to press charges. And while DV charges are pending, defendants will have a protection order taken out against them.
Eight crimes which commonly include the domestic violence enhancement are:
- Assault (CRS 18-3-202 – 204)
- Stalking a.k.a. “Vonnie’s Law” (CRS 18-3-602)
- Harassment (CRS 18-9-111)
- Child abuse (CRS 18-6-401)
- Sexual contact (CRS 18-3-404)
- Menacing (CRS 18-3-206)
- False imprisonment (CRS 18-3-303)
- Elder abuse (CRS 18-6.5-103)
But the domestic violence enhancement can apply to any criminal charge or municipal ordinance violation. Even crimes against pets or property:
Example: Jeff bashes his ex-boyfriend’s Rex’s car windows. Jeff could then face charges for criminal mischief (CRS 18-4-501) for damaging the car. And since Rex and Jeff used to date, the prosecutor would also bring a DV enhancement against Jeff.
If Jeff and Rex in the above example were platonic friends, then the window bashing would not be an act of domestic violence. Instead, Jeff would just face prosecution for criminal mischief.1
Yes, a DV charge always triggers a mandatory protection order. While the order is active, the defendant may not have alcohol and must avoid the accuser.2
- 6 – 18 months in jail, and/or
- $500 – $5,000 in fines.3
Since DV is an enhancement, the punishment depends on the underlying charge. The judge may order that the defendant be evaluated and complete a DV treatment program. The judge may also extend the restraining order.
Note that a fourth conviction involving DV labels the defendant as a habitual domestic violence offender.4 This is a class 5 felony, carrying:
- 1 to 3 years in Colorado State Prison (with mandatory 2-year parole),5 and/or
- A fine of $1,000 to $100,0006
This sentence is in addition to the one for the underlying crime.
An intimate relationship is based on a romantic attachment or shared parental status, such as:
- A wife or husband, or an ex-wife or ex-husband; or
- A girlfriend or boyfriend, or an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend; or
- A co-parent (“baby daddy” or “baby mama”), including of adopted children7
Roommates, friends, or co-workers do not count as intimate relationships unless they fall under one of the above categories. A sexual relationship may be an indicator of an intimate relationship, but it is not required.
Example: Joe calls his ex-girlfriend Betty dozens of times a day to yell at her. Here, Joe could face DV harassment charges. Even though they never had sex, the DV enhancement applies because they used to date.
DV defendants usually may not possess firearms while there is a restraining order against them. So they must surrender their guns to law enforcement, a dealer, or a private party. Then if the case gets dismissed and the restraining order lifted, the defendant’s guns may be returned.
Example: Javier is fighting with his baby’s mother. He leaves angry messages on her voicemail accusing her of being a terrible parent. Javier gets convicted of DV harassment as a misdemeanor. But because this harassment involved no force (or threat of force), he should keep his gun rights.
Domestic abuse is usually deportable.9 Therefore, non-citizens facing a DV enhancement should consult an experienced attorney. It may be possible to get the charge reduced to a non-removable offense or dismissed.
Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Colorado.
The only sealable DV-related convictions in Colorado are municipal court cases. There is a three-year waiting period to seal the criminal record. And the defendant must not have picked up any new cases.
Any DV-related convictions in non-municipal court remain on the defendant’s record forever.
But any DV-related case that gets dismissed is sealable immediately. This includes both municipal and non-municipal cases.10
Learn about how to get a Colorado criminal record seal.
The best way to win a domestic abuse case is to fight the underlying charge. In a DV assault case for instance, the defendant may argue that:
- It was an act of self-defense;
- The incident was an accident; or
- The alleged victim falsely accused the defendant of domestic abuse
Then if the D.A. drops the assault charge, the DV enhancement automatically disappears.
To specifically eliminate a DV enhancement under Colorado criminal law, the defendant can show that the accuser was never in an intimate relationship with him/her. Perhaps the accuser falsely claimed to be involved with the defendant. Or perhaps the police officer wrongly presumed they were together.
Possible evidence that may show there was no intimacy includes:
- Eyewitness accounts;
- Text messages, emails, and voicemails;
- Video recordings; and/or
- Therapist notes
If the prosecution withdraws the domestic abuse enhancement, the court may then withdraw the restraining order. But the underlying charge will remain.
Call a Colorado criminal defense attorney…
Accused of violating Colorado domestic violence laws? Our Denver criminal defense attorneys invite you to contact us to discuss forming an attorney-client relationship. Just fill out the form on this page or call us at our convenient Denver law offices:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver CO 80211
In California? See our article on corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant (Penal Code 273.5 PC).
In Nevada? See our article on “battery domestic abuse” laws (NRS 200.485).
- CRS 18-6-800.3 states that “domestic violence means an act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence also includes any other crime … 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.”
- CRS 18-6-803.7; CRS 18-6-801(3).
- CRS 18-6-803.5.
- CRS 18-6-801(7).
- CRS 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V)(A).
- CRS 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(III)(A).
- CRS 18-6-800.3, People v. Disher, 224 P.3d 254 (Colo. 2010).
- CRS 18-1-1001.
- 8 USC 1227 (a)(2)(E)(1).
- CRS 24-72-702.