Domestic violence cases come in all shapes and sizes. Some include actual violence and bodily injury. Others involve threats of harm or simple harassment. Whether you have been accused of domestic violence or are a victim of domestic violence, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Domestic violence-related charges are serious and can have a devastating effect on your life and career. If you have children, the consequences can be more severe than you may have thought possible.
What to Expect After a Domestic Violence Arrest
Colorado has a “mandatory arrest” policy concerning domestic violence. This means police are required to make an arrest if they have probable cause to suspect that domestic violence has taken place. Here are some key things to expect if you’ve been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence:
- A police report detailing all accounts of the crime will be compiled on the day of your arrest.
- Before the case goes to court, a mandatory domestic violence protection order will be put in place.
- You will make a plea at your first court hearing. It is crucial to have an attorney to represent you at this hearing.
- Domestic violence cases are fast-tracked in Colorado. The Fast-Track program accelerates the prosecution of domestic violence crimes that are classified as misdemeanors. This enables early intervention and treatment, as well as the safe participation of the victim.
- Jail time will be decided based on previous domestic violence complaints, the degree of injury to the victim(s), and the risk of future domestic abuse. Whether the offender acted in self-defense will also be considered.
Common Domestic Violence Defense Strategies
An experienced Colorado Springs domestic violence attorney can craft a compelling defense strategy to refute the prosecution’s arguments. Some common strategies that criminal defense attorneys deploy when handling domestic violence cases include:
- Self Defense. Colorado state law allows individuals to use physical force to defend themselves when they are facing imminent harm, and the degree of that physical force is deemed appropriate for the circumstances.
- Defending a Child. The same is true if you employ physical force while defending your child from harm.
- False Allegation. Your case is likely to be dropped by the prosecutor if you can demonstrate that the allegations against you are false.
- Illegal Procedures. When making an arrest, police must follow certain rules and regulations. If you were not read your rights, if an illegal search was performed, or if there was any other irregularity in the arrest, your case may be dismissed.
- One-Time Occurrence. If this is your first domestic violence offense, a skilled attorney can argue that this was an isolated incident and will not happen again in the future, possibly reducing your sentence.
- Accident. In some situations, a domestic violence accusation may be the result of an accident, which can lead to reduced penalties or the dismissal of the case entirely, depending on the nature of the accident.
Colorado Domestic Violence Penalties
Domestic violence offenders can face serious repercussions. Mandatory protection orders (also called a restraining order) will be imposed. This means you may not be able to return home, contact your significant other, or communicate with your kids. While charges are pending, you may be required to give up any firearms in your possession. Various government agencies, such as the Department of Human Services, can investigate whether there is emotional, physical, medical, and/or educational neglect in your home.
The penalties to a domestic violence conviction can be severe and may include:
- House Arrest. This is possible only when the domestic violence offender and the victim live separately. If confined to house arrest, the offender may be required to wear an electronic monitor.
- Domestic Violence Evaluation and Treatment. This is mandatory unless the defendant is sentenced to prison. The court can also order both parties (the accused and the accuser) to attend parenting classes or meet other requirements.
- Gun Restrictions. These are put in place if a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. The offender will not be able to buy or possess guns or ammunition. A defendant who is the subject of a protection/restraining order must also surrender their firearms. In that case, the gun owner can sell the gun to someone else or store it with a law enforcement agency or a licensed firearms dealer until rights are restored. In some cases, offenders lose their Second Amendment rights permanently.
- Probation. This is possible only after the safety and rights of the victim and any children are thoroughly evaluated. Not every defendant is eligible for probation.
- Jail or Prison Time. This can be mandatory, depending on the circumstances of the case. The level of the felony offense and any prior convictions will be considered. Prison sentences can range from one year to life, depending on the classification of the crime. A crime that is considered a petty offense or a municipal code violation can result in up to one year in the county jail.
- Fines. A range of fines and court fees are possible upon conviction of a domestic violence crime. Defendants with previous domestic violence convictions have to pay larger fines.
- Deportation. Non-citizens convicted of domestic violence may be deported, unless the defendant’s attorney can get the charge dismissed or the charge reduced to a non-removable offense.
- Additional Restrictions. A judge may order the offender to stay away from certain places and prohibit them from using alcohol or drugs.
While not legal penalties related to the case itself, a domestic violence conviction can also adversely affect someone’s ability to get child custody orders they believe are fair in divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities proceedings.
Our domestic violence attorneys at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC will fight fiercely to prevent a conviction or minimize the penalties in your case. Contact our law firm now to discuss how we can help.
Domestic Violence Evaluation and Treatment
If a defendant is convicted, they will be required to complete a domestic violence evaluation. To determine the appropriate treatment level, the evaluation looks at:
- An offender’s risk of reoffending
- The risk factors associated with criminal behavior
- The cognitive-behavioral treatment and intervention appropriate to a defendant’s learning style, motivation, and abilities
In the end, offenders are at least initially assigned to one of three tracks of treatment, ranging from mild to intensive. Depending on the treatment track assigned, the treatment can be extensive and burdensome.
How Does a Domestic Violence Conviction Affect Your 2nd Amendment Rights?
For many people, the real consequences of a conviction for a domestic violence-related charge often go beyond what the judge orders at sentencing. People with domestic violence-related convictions on their records cannot legally possess firearms under either the Brady Bill or the Lautenberg Amendment. Ever. Even people who obtain a deferred sentence to a domestic violence-related charge cannot legally possess a firearm during the active term of the deferred sentence.
For those who don’t care to possess firearms, this is not a problem. However, for sportsmen, members of the military, law enforcement, security officials, and many other categories of people, this can be devastating. While Patterson Weaver Law, LLC cannot advise any client or potential client on matters of military law, every domestic violence attorney in Colorado Springs knows of many former clients who lost their military careers because otherwise good soldiers found themselves prohibited from possessing firearms.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Colorado?
Many people use the term domestic violence (DV) as if it was an actual charge in and of itself. It’s actually what legal professionals call a sentence enhancer. That means that domestic violence charges can be added to any underlying charge, no matter whether a misdemeanor or felony, such as assault, harassment, child abuse, or stalking (to name a few). According to Colorado Revised Statute 18-6-800.3 (1):
“’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.”
As an example of how this works in practice: Say a defendant has been charged with Assault 3 (a Class 1 Misdemeanor). If in the course of proving the Assault 3, the prosecutor can also establish that the defendant and the alleged victim were in an “intimate relationship,” then additional and more severe penalties may attach to the charge.
Believe it or not, some of the behavior you might see in a romantic comedy could easily qualify as domestic violence in Colorado. A lovestruck character who won’t take no for an answer and keeps sending messages and gifts to his ex-girlfriend? That’s harassment. Following your love interest while he goes on a date with someone you know isn’t right for him? That’s stalking. A couple pushing and shoving during an argument while the children are present? That’s child abuse.
Colorado is renowned for its overly strict approach to anything even appearing to be ill-considered actions between people who have, at some point, been in an intimate relationship. While everyone would agree that there are good reasons for criminal laws designed to prevent or punish domestic violence, the actual practical application of those laws ensnares a lot of good people in what could have been a simple family disagreement. These laws can also provide bitter former spouses the perfect tool to repeatedly have their exes arrested for even the most minor of alleged infractions. Unfortunately, there are many good and loving people in Colorado who have found themselves labeled as domestic abusers for all-time.
Bottom line, if you are facing a domestic violence-related charge, you need to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Understanding Colorado Domestic Violence Laws
Colorado has some of the most draconian domestic violence laws in the country. To start, Colorado has a mandatory arrest policy whenever police officers have probable cause to believe that any offense took place between a former or current intimate couple. In short, if the police are called, someone is almost always going to jail for at least a night.
Similarly, prosecutors are not allowed to dismiss domestic violence cases unless they can say in good faith to the court that there is not even a prima facie case for the offense. In most situations, that is not possible for them to do. This means that prosecutors are forced to pursue cases even if they think the case is minor, or dumb, and that their resources could better be spent elsewhere.
You need an experienced domestic violence attorney in Colorado Springs who understands how these cases are handled. The criminal defense lawyers at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC are dedicated to providing outstanding representation in domestic violence cases at reasonable rates. Contact our law firm today for a free initial consultation and personalized legal advice.
How Colorado Law Makes It Tough in Domestic Violence Cases
Defendants facing domestic violence-related charges have a much harder road than someone charged with the same offense but without the domestic violence enhancer. In many parts of the country, the police and prosecutors have significant discretion in handling domestic violence cases, allowing them to use their judgment to do what they believe is right. However, Colorado has laws tying the hands of law enforcement, forcing arrests and prosecutions even if the police or prosecutor does not believe it necessary.
First, under Colorado law, the police have to make an arrest anytime they investigate an incident and believe there is probable cause that the incident involved domestic violence. The intended goal of this requirement is to make sure that the incident doesn’t continue to escalate after the police leave, putting the alleged victim in further danger. The actual result is that the police are forced to make many arrests for minor incidents that they would probably prefer to mediate and move on from if they had the choice.
Second, under Colorado law, prosecutors who are assigned such a case do not believe they are permitted to dismiss the case, or plead it down from domestic violence, unless they can in good faith stand before a judge and tell the court that they do not have any case for domestic violence. Therefore, the law ties prosecutors’ hands even in the silliest or most mundane of domestic violence allegations. Dented a refrigerator you own with your spouse in anger during a heated argument? In Colorado, you would be arrested.
If you find yourself charged with a domestic violence case in Colorado, you need to speak to a knowledgeable defense attorney in Colorado Springs such as Patterson Weaver as soon as possible. While the law is stacked against defendants in these cases, our skilled Colorado Springs domestic violence attorneys can often help clients navigate the legal system to resolve these cases with the best possible outcome.
Tips for Protecting Your Rights
From the moment of your domestic violence arrest, you must be vigilant in protecting your rights. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Adhere to a domestic violence protection order. Violating this order is also considered a crime.
- Document any injuries or marks you suffered during the incident with photographs, even if the officers involved also took photos.
- Do not discuss the incident with anyone. Keep in mind that all phone calls and visits in jail are recorded and can be used against you.
- Be respectful to the victim. Antagonistic behavior could demonstrate violent tendencies.
- Preserve any communication between yourself and the alleged victim leading up to the incident.
- Document any mental health issues you may suffer from, as well as treatment you receive.
- Seek an experienced, skilled attorney to properly defend your rights. Never accept a deal without a skilled attorney’s oversight of your case.
How Long Does a Domestic Violence Charge Stay on Your Record in Colorado?
A domestic violence charge will stay on your record for the rest of your life. Whether the offense was 25 years ago or last year, judges, prosecutors, and other individuals have access to your criminal history on the national computer system maintained by the FBI and the state computer system maintained by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Can You Expunge a Domestic Violence Charge in Colorado?
In Colorado, you can never have a domestic violence charge expunged nor sealed. The conviction remains on the record forever, no matter whether the case was a felony or misdemeanor, or whether the defendant was adjudged guilty through a trial or a plea agreement. However, if the case was dismissed, you were found not guilty at trial, or the case was dismissed after successfully completing a deferred judgment and sentence, then you might be able to seal the record. Contact our domestic violence lawyers to discuss your options for sealing your record.
Talk to an Experienced Colorado Springs Domestic Violence Lawyer Today
If you are facing a domestic violence-related charge, do not do anything without first consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help you understand the possible consequences you are facing and navigate the legal system for the best possible resolution to your situation. In fact, while Colorado laws are complex, an experienced domestic violence defense attorney can significantly increase the chances of getting domestic violence charges dropped.
Patterson Weaver Law, LLC serves El Paso County (Colorado Springs), Pueblo County (Pueblo), Teller County (Cripple Creek), Park County (Fairplay and Bailey), Elbert County (Kiowa), Fremont County (Canon City), and the surrounding areas. If you live outside of the Colorado Springs area, we may also be able to come to you for the initial consultation. Contact us now to get started on your defense.