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Mandatory Arrest Laws Can Lead to Unfair Domestic Violence Arrests

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP May 3, 2019

It happens more frequently than you may think: The police respond to a call about a possible domestic situation and end up making an arrest, even though no physical violence – or threat of physical violence — ever occurred. Now, something that was a heated argument with a spouse or partner has turned into a criminal case.

All too often, what happens is that the police officer or officers who responded to the call misinterpret the mandatory arrest laws in Colorado and think that just because they arrived at a domestic violence call that they have to arrest someone. Just ask a criminal defense lawyer in Boulder. 

Colorado’s law states that an officer must make an arrest with “undue delay” if there is probable cause to believe that a domestic violence offense occurred. The officer does not have the discretion to issue a summons; they are required to make an arrest. The arrested person will remain in jail until they are able to see a judge. That can mean an overnight stay in jail, or a stay over the weekend. What makes these situations unique from other typical scenarios is that police officers normally have more decision-making power when it comes to whether to arrest someone or when to make that arrest. But with domestic violence calls, if the probable cause piece is there and the person is on the scene, the officer is legally obligated to make an arrest.

However, read through this brief description again. Nowhere does it say that an officer must make an arrest just because there was a call. Yet, many misinterpret the law and think that is what needs to happen. This leads to the arrest of innocent people for crimes they did not commit.

Understanding domestic violence charges

The consequences of a domestic violence conviction are significant, which is why it is important to obtain legal representation quickly after an arrest.

The very first thing to understand is that you will most likely wind up spending at least a night in jail after a domestic violence arrest. This is because, by law, someone facing a domestic violence accusation cannot post bond until he or she goes before a judge. This means, if the arrest happens later in the day or at night, you will be waiting until the next day before going before the judge. If the arrest happens late on a Friday, you’ll probably end up in jail over the weekend.

In an ideal situation – you will have representation before this very first appearance. One reason for this is Colorado’s law that the courts must issue a protection order in domestic violence cases. You should have an attorney present to make sure this is properly addressed from the very beginning.

In keeping with Colorado’s mandatory arrest law and mandatory protection orders in domestic violence cases, domestic violence offenses carry certain mandatory penalties, including court-ordered domestic violence treatment for those who plead guilty to domestic violence offenses.

A domestic violence conviction can cause issues with everything from parental rights to housing opportunities. It is important to act quickly as soon as there is an arrest and contact a Boulder domestic violence attorney.