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When Is Assault Considered to Be ‘Domestic’?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP March 10, 2022

Assault and domestic violence are two closely related charges in Colorado that can come with different consequences. It is important to understand the difference if you think that you or a loved one could be facing either charge. The distinction essentially comes down to the nature of the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim.

Definition of Assault in Colorado

According to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-3-202, someone commits the crime of assault if he or she knowingly, intentionally or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person. There are three different degrees of assault crimes in Colorado:

  • Assault in the third degree. This crime includes recklessly injuring another person or causing a bodily injury through criminal negligence involving a deadly weapon.
  • Assault in the second degree. Intentionally or recklessly injuring someone by means of a deadly weapon.
  • Assault in the first degree. Intentionally causing serious bodily injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or intentionally causing permanent disfigurement.

These are pared-down definitions of highly complex laws that encompass many other reckless and intentional acts that constitute assault. An attorney can help you understand assault charges in Colorado in more detail.

When Is Assault Considered Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is not a separate or individual crime in Colorado. Instead, it is an aggravating circumstance that can result in an enhanced sentence for a defendant facing criminal charges. This means that if a crime such as assault, battery, sexual assault, stalking, harassment, child abuse or elder abuse is considered to be domestic violence, the defendant will face a more severe sentence. 

An assault charge can be enhanced with a domestic violence aggravator if the people involved share a domestic relationship. ‘Domestic relationship’ has a broad definition that includes two people related by blood or marriage, two people who share the same household, two people who have a child together, two people in a romantic relationship, or people with a partner in common. Since domestic violence is a sentencing enhancement, it can apply to any criminal charge or legal violation, including crimes against pets and property.

Penalties for Domestic Violence in Colorado

Colorado is a mandatory arrest state. This means if there is any evidence that leads the police to believe that a person has committed domestic violence, they must make an arrest. This is the case even if the alleged victim recants his or her allegations and chooses not to press charges. In addition to a mandatory arrest, someone with a pending domestic violence case will be faced with a protection order. 

If a criminal case for an alleged crime with a domestic violence enhancement ends in a conviction, the defendant could face the following penalties:

  • Jail or prison time
  • Fines 
  • Domestic violence treatment program
  • Extended restraining order

These penalties can come in addition to the sentence for the underlying crime committed. A defendant’s precise sentence will depend on a variety of factors, including the nature and severity of the crime, the extent of the victim’s injuries, and the defendant’s criminal history.

Possible Defenses 

If you are facing domestic violence charges in Colorado, it is critical to hire a criminal defense lawyer to represent you. The best way to fight this allegation is to defend against the underlying criminal charge. This may involve an argument of self-defense, defense of others, lack of intent to cause injury or false accusation. If the underlying assault charges are dropped, the domestic violence sentencing enhancement will also disappear. 

If the underlying criminal charge sticks, your lawyer may still be able to fight the domestic violence enhancement by proving that you and the alleged victim did not share an intimate or domestic relationship. This can reduce the potential penalties that you face. Dolan + Zimmerman LLP offers free 10-minute consultations to learn more about domestic violence charges in Colorado.