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 we 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.
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 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 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.
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
Why You Need An Experienced 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 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.