Boulder Domestic Violence Defense Attorney
Police agencies and prosecutors in Boulder and throughout Colorado take allegations of domestic violence very seriously. Colorado’s laws also reflect a severe approach to cases involving current or former intimate partners. At Dolan + Zimmerman LLP, we have extensive experience protecting the rights of those accused of domestic violence. While our Boulder domestic violence defense lawyers can answer all of your questions in a free 10-minute consultation, the following information about domestic violence will help you better understand what to expect and how best to protect yourself.
Why Choose Our Firm for Your Domestic Violence Case?
- Our law firm’s collective talents are used to review cases from every angle and develop effective options for your defense.
- We make it a priority to protect client’s privacy, as we understand that domestic violence charges alone can cause irreversible damage to your life
- Our Boulder criminal defense lawyers remain accessible to our clients and promise complete transparency.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence offenses are not limited to physical hitting, pushing, or shoving. Shouting, threats, excessive or abusive texting, telephone calls, social media activity, and destruction of mutually owned property are all frequently charged as domestic violence offenses.
In Colorado, domestic violence is not a specific criminal offense. It is a classification that can apply to any crime against a person or property when that crime is alleged to have been committed against a person with whom the perpetrator has ever been in an intimate relationship and is alleged to have been committed as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation or revenge.
The domestic violence classification also applies to any act or threatened act of violence against a current or former intimate partner. The domestic violence label can be applied to petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies. Even in cases in which no one was hurt and in which the alleged victim does not want the other person to be prosecuted, the domestic violence label triggers a number of severe and inflexible consequences, which begin before the accused person is convicted.
When Do You Need a Boulder Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer?
In any situation in which a person alleges that his or her partner or former partner has done anything that could arguably be considered domestic violence, most Colorado police agencies follow a strict policy of arresting the accused person. Colorado’s laws require that before being allowed to post bond, a person accused of domestic violence must appear before a judge. In most jurisdictions in Colorado, this means that the person ends up spending at least one night in jail. If the arrest occurs on a Friday, an accused person will end up in jail for the weekend until court opens on Monday in most jurisdictions.
Representation by a prepared and knowledgeable Boulder domestic violence defense attorney at the first court appearance is absolutely necessary to ensure that the bond is set fairly and that the mandatory protection order is addressed at the first possible opportunity. In all criminal cases, Colorado courts are required by law to issue a mandatory protection order, which lasts in some form throughout the life of the case. At least initially, most mandatory protection orders prohibit any form of contact with the alleged victim.
Can You Have Contact With the Alleged Victim?
Mandatory protection orders initially state that the defendant must not have any contact whatsoever with the alleged victim. In many domestic violence cases, this means that the accused person is forced to immediately move out of his or her home and find a new place to live, without contact with their partner, who is frequently a spouse, co-parent and financial partner.
Alleged violations of protection orders are prosecuted criminally; a new charge for violation of a protection order can significantly reduce the possibility of an acceptable outcome in a domestic violence case. Protection order conditions are also conditions of bond, and violations of protection orders can trigger new charges of violation of bail bond conditions and can lead to the bond being revoked.
Mandatory protection orders in domestic violence cases can be modified by judges to allow varying levels of contact. Judges and prosecutors are bound by statutory limitations and by their offices’ policies; you need an attorney who can work on getting the protection order modified to allow the appropriate level of contact starting at the very beginning of your case.
What if the Alleged Victim Does Not Want You to Be Prosecuted?
Most people assume that if the alleged victim does not want their current or former partner to be prosecuted, the prosecutor will defer to his or her wishes. This is absolutely not the case.
Prosecutors in Colorado take alleged domestic violence offenses extremely seriously, and do not dismiss cases upon the request of the alleged victim; in fact, by law, they are not allowed to dismiss cases just because they are asked to do so. Depending on the way that they are articulated, requests for dismissal by the alleged victim can sometimes even make a case worse.
Prosecutors are required to maintain contact with alleged victims, to give them notice of important events in the case, and to seek their input at certain procedural points in the case; but they prosecute domestic violence cases without regard to whether or not the alleged victim wishes to “press charges.” Domestic violence charges do not go away by themselves.
Common Domestic Violence Charges in Colorado
Domestic violence is a sentencing enhancement in Colorado, rather than being treated as a separate criminal offense. A sentencing enhancement means a judge will increase a defendant’s sentence or punishment beyond the normal range for a crime against an intimate partner. Domestic violence is commonly an aggravating factor in the following eight crimes:
- Assault (CRS 18-3-202 – 204)
- Harassment (CRS 18-9-111)
- Sexual contact (CRS 18-3-404)
- Menacing (CRS 18-3-206)
- False imprisonment (CRS 18-3-303)
- Stalking (Vonnie’s Law) (CRS 18-3-602)
- Child abuse (CRS 18-6-401)
- Elder abuse (CRS 18-6.5-103)
However, domestic violence can be a sentencing enhancer for any criminal charge or municipal ordinance violation.
Common Defenses to Domestic Violence Allegations
Some of the most common and successful defenses against domestic violence include:
- They are lying. It’s possible that an individual could have fabricated the entire story as revenge or to get even. If this is your defense, your domestic violence defense attorney will seek to establish:
- Whether the victim’s injuries support your version of the story.
- Whether your account is consistent with the police report.
- Whether the victim was at another location at the time of the crime.
- I didn’t do it. Another commonly used defense is that you are innocent. Your Boulder domestic violence defense lawyer will look for evidence to support this claim, such as:
- Your whereabouts and that you were not at the scene of the crime.
- A credible alibi.
- Any evidence to support your story, such as emails, text messages, phone recordings, or videos.
- It was self-defense. Claiming you were trying to defend yourself or your children will require:
- Checking the police report for admission by the alleged victim to having used violence and any inconsistencies in their story.
- Finding out why the victim used violence, for instance, if they were afraid of you.
- Checking whether the victim’s injuries suggest self-defense on your part.
- Checking if you have defensive injuries.
- Comparing your story to what you told the police.
- Looking for inconsistencies, for example, damage in the home that you could have only caused and not the victim.
The success of your defense will depend on the strength of the evidence you have to support it.
What Happens if You Plead Guilty?
A guilty plea in a domestic violence case triggers a lengthy course of mandatory court-ordered “treatment.” A conviction for a domestic violence charge or charges, regardless of whether anyone is alleged to have been injured, can trigger serious and permanent consequences. These consequences can include:
- Loss of professional licensure or intermediate licensing consequences
- Suspension or expulsion from undergraduate or graduate-level education
- Problems obtaining financing for education or homes
- Difficulty finding housing
- Removal or deportation from the country, depending upon immigration status
- Difficulty visiting or moving to foreign countries
- Problems with parental rights
What Are the Penalties for Domestic Violence in Colorado?
If the court enhances your sentence after determining domestic violence to be an aggravating factor, your jail or prison sentence can be lengthened. The actual punishment, however, will vary based on the underlying charge.
Enhanced Jail or Probation Sentence
If you have three prior domestic violence misdemeanors on your record, your crime can be enhanced to a class 5 felony. A class 5 felony carries a penalty of one to three years in Colorado’s state prison with mandatory two-year parole and/or a fine between $1,000 to $100,000.
If the court does not order jail or prison time, you will be on probation. Probation, also called community supervision, requires you to follow strict conditions. Those conditions include submitting to random drug tests and visits to your probation officer. Your probation period may be extended if the judge determines your crime to be domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Treatment Program
The court will require participation in a domestic violence treatment program if you are convicted of domestic violence. Before your sentencing, you will be asked to attend a domestic violence evaluation to decide how much treatment is required if you are convicted. The treatment can consist of group therapy, counseling, and others. At the minimum, you will be required to complete 36 hours of domestic violence treatment, and you are responsible for the cost.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, the court may request you complete additional programs such as anger management or substance abuse treatment.
Stripped of Gun Rights
A domestic violence restraining order or conviction prohibits you from possessing a firearm (CRS 18-6-800.3). However, a felony or violent misdemeanor conviction results in a permanent loss of gun rights. Within 24 hours of your release from bond or incarceration, you will be required to relinquish your firearms. If you fail to notify the court within three days that you’ve forfeited your weapons, you will be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor which carries a punishment of up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Can a Domestic Violence Conviction be Sealed or Expunged?
Records can be sealed immediately if your domestic violence-related case is dismissed. Regarding convictions, only municipal court domestic violence convictions are sealable in Colorado as long as you do not have any new claims against you. Sealing means your criminal record is invisible to all except law enforcement and prosecution entities. Convictions in a non-municipal court cannot be sealed or expunged and remain on your record permanently.
Domestic Violence Statistics in Colorado
Domestic violence is a terrifying reality for thousands of individuals in Colorado, as is evident in the following statistics provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).
- At some point in their lives, close to 37 percent of women and over 30 percent of men in Colorado experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking.
- In 2018, 32 Coloradans were killed by former or current intimate partners, and almost two-thirds of those were with the use of firearms.
- Intimate partners committed 15 percent of homicides in Colorado in 2019.
- Over 230,000 women in Colorado are stalked in their lifetimes.
- By the end of 2019, Colorado had submitted 419 domestic violence misdemeanor and 330 active protective order records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Index.
- In March 2020, The National Domestic Violence Hotline experienced a 9 percent increase in their total contacts received, and over 6,000 contacts cited COVID-19 as an amplifying problem
Why You Need a Boulder Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
If you are charged with a domestic violence offense, you need a highly experienced attorney to advocate for you. This is true if you are being falsely accused, and it is equally true if you have made a mistake and need an advocate to make sure that you are being treated fairly, and that your case has the minimum possible impact on your life, family and livelihood.
Don’t wait to get the legal help you need. Call our office today to arrange for a free 10-minute consultation with a domestic violence defense attorney in Boulder.