Domestic Violence Laws in Colorado

In Colorado, domestic violence is not a crime in itself. Rather, it is a sentencing enhancement that applies if domestic violence was used during the commission of a crime. Common crimes to which domestic violence charges are added include (without limitation):

But the domestic violence enhancement can apply to any criminal charges – even crimes against animals or property – if the violence was used to coerce, punish or control someone.

Our Colorado domestic violence defense lawyers can help

Colorado takes accusations of domestic violence seriously. Fortunately, our caring Colorado criminal defense lawyers do, too.

The consequences of Colorado domestic violence charges are serious. Colorado is a mandatory domestic violence arrest state. If the police so much as suspect you of domestic violence, they must arrest you. You will be placed under a mandatory "no contact" order. This means that if you live with a suspected victim, you will not be able to go home.

Domestic violence protective orders come with a variety of other conditions that can include a crippling curtailing of your rights--legally, you can't even drink a beer once a domestic violence charge has been lodged.

If you have been accused of domestic violence or of violating a Colorado protective order it is critical that you contact the best Colorado domestic violence lawyer you can right away. To understand why, our top Denver domestic violence attorneys discuss the following, below:

1. What is domestic violence?

Colorado defines “domestic violence” under 18-6-800.3, C.R.S. as follows:

“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 against a person, or against property, including an animal, or any municipal ordinance violation against a person, or against property, including an animal, 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.

“Intimate relationship” means 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.

1.1. What constitutes an intimate relationship?

For purposes of Colorado's domestic violence law, an intimate relationship is one based on a romantic attachment or shared parental status. Intimate relationships include those you have with:

  • Your spouse
  • A former spouse
  • A girlfriend or boyfriend,
  • An ex,
  • Your baby daddy or baby mama (including of adopted children),
  • Anyone you are dating, or have dated, seriously or exclusively.

A sexual relationship may be an indicator of an intimate relationship, but a sexual relationship need not be present. 

The following do not generally count as intimate relationships unless they also fall into one of the above-listed categories:

  • Roommates,
  • Co-workers,
  • Friends, and
  • Acquaintances.

2. The consequences of domestic violence in Colorado

Colorado is a mandatory domestic violence arrest state. As soon as the police suspect you of domestic violence, they must arrest you – even if your alleged victim does not want to press charges.

A domestic violence arrest will also trigger a mandatory restraining order. The restraining order will be issued even if the alleged victim does not want it, or the complaint was bogus. If you live with the alleged victim, this means you can't go home.

What's more, if the court determines that the facts of your case support a charge of domestic violence, the prosecutor must usually seek the domestic violence enhancement– again, even if the alleged victim refuses to cooperate.1 

And if you are convicted of a crime and domestic violence was involved, in addition to your sentence for the crime, the court can:

  • Order you to complete a domestic violence treatment program and a treatment evaluation,
  • Prohibit you from owning or possessing a firearm,
  • Issue a restraining order to prevent you having any contact with the alleged victim, and
  • Enter your name into the public restraining order registry.2

Finally, if you have three prior criminal convictions involving domestic violence, a subsequent violation will get you labeled a habitual domestic violence offender.3 Being a Colorado habitual domestic violence offender is a Colorado class 5 felony. In addition to the sentence for the underlying crime, penalties for habitual offenders can include:

  • 1-3 years in Colorado prison (with mandatory 2-year parole),4 and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.5

Learn about Colorado's mandatory reporting laws in child abuse cases.

3. Domestic violence and protective orders

As soon as a domestic violence allegation is made, you will be arrested and a protective order will be issued. This restraining order is mandatory in Colorado.

The order will prohibit you from harassing, molesting, intimidating, retaliating against, or tampering with any witness to or victim of the acts charged. It will also order you to:

  • vacate or stay away from the home of the alleged victim or witness;
  • stay away from any other location where the victim or witness is likely to be found;
  • refrain from contact or direct or indirect communication with the alleged victim or witness--even if the alleged victim or witness initiates the contact or is willing to see you or speak to you;
  • not possess or control firearms or other weapons;
  • not possess or consume any alcohol or controlled substances; and
  • anything else the court deems appropriate to protect the safety of the alleged victim or witness.6

Once the protective order is issued, your name will be entered into Colorado's electronic protective order registry.7 The police will be authorized to take any steps necessary to protect your alleged victim or any witness.

Knowing violation of a protective order is itself a Colorado misdemeanor crime. Penalties for violating a Colorado protective order can include:

  • a fine of up to $5,000, and
  • up to 18 months in jail.8

4. About the Colorado Legal Defense Group

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Denver domestic violence attorney Michael Becker of the Colorado Legal Defense Group

Denver domestic violence lawyer Michael Becker has decades of experience protecting clients accused of domestic violence and sex crimes. He understands that things aren't always what they seem. In many cases, the arrestee was just acting in self-defense.

Maybe a neighbor misread the situation and called the police. Perhaps your partner made up the allegations to hurt you or gain an advantage. Or maybe you just made a very human mistake and what you need is help – not punishment.

Call us for help...

If you were accused of domestic violence and are looking to hire one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, or Lakewood, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We will get back to you quickly so that you can protect your good name and go home.

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
(303) 222-0330

Arrested in Nevada? See our article on Nevada "battery domestic violence" laws. In California, please visit our article on corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant (Penal Code 273.5 PC).

Legal references:

  1. 18-6-801(3), C.R.S.
  2. 18-6-803.7, C.R.S.
  3. 18-6-801(7), C.R.S.
  4. 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V)(A), C.R.S.
  5. 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(III)(A), C.R.S.
  6. 18-1-1001, C.R.S.
  7. 18-6-803.7, C.R.S.
  8. 18-6-803.5., C.R.S.


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