Since 1988 Colorado has established domestic violence as a “status crime.” This means that domestic violence is not actually a crime itself but a designation that attaches to any crime you are charged with where an act or threatened act of violence is alleged to have been directed towards a person with whom you are - or have been - involved with in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence also includes any other crime against a person or property, including animals, or municipal ordinance violations when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom you are - or have been - involved with in an intimate relationship.

In a Colorado domestic violence case, the term “intimate relationship” includes a relationship between spouses, former spouses, past or present unmarried couples, or persons who are both the parents of the same child regardless of whether the parents have been married or lived together at any time.

If you are charged with a crime carrying a domestic violence enhancement in Colorado, you will be arrested.  And while police officers have some leeway to evaluate situations where two participants are alleged to have committed domestic violence acts against each other, if an officer believes that he or she has probable cause, you will be arrested and taken to jail.

The issue of whether and when you can be released after a domestic violence arrest is determined by the bonding policies and schedules in each of Colorado’s counties. In the Denver metro area, including Boulder County, there are policies in place that require an appearance before a judge on a domestic violence arrest before you can be bonded out of jail. The delay in being released from jail is primarily tied to a provision in Colorado’s domestic violence law that creates a mandatory protection order and policies that implement that order by having a Judge “explain the order to you” in court, as well as to allow time to obtain the alleged victim’s input. It is important for you, and for those who are supporting you after an arrest, to call a domestic violence lawyer immediately to help you navigate the court system.

Because an alleged violation of a Court’s domestic violence protective order can result in both a new arrest and new criminal charge it is important for your domestic violence attorney to be told of any special needs that you and your partner have, such as child care, so that appropriate opportunity for contact can presented to the court for consideration in the conditions of your bond, where possible.

After years of watching police dramas on television or the movies, it is a common misconception that unless an alleged victim chooses to “press charges” police cannot arrest someone for a crime short of homicide.  However, under Colorado’s Constitution, crimes are deemed to have been committed against the peace and dignity of the People of the State of Colorado and not a named victim. And while it is true that under Colorado’s Constitution an alleged victim of domestic violence is legally entitled to provide input to prosecutors and the Court, he or she cannot derail a prosecution simply by asking for the charges to be dropped.

Defending domestic violence cases presents many challenges. It is not uncommon for significant others to demand that a mandatory protective order be lifted so that a partner can return home in order to parent or simply to begin putting the relationship back into a place where time together and couples counseling can be used to heal a partnership. This becomes extremely difficult when prosecutors use the law to keep families and couples apart for leverage in plea bargaining or when domestic violence-treatment rules prohibit couples counseling until an approved domestic violence program is completed, which is often 9 months to a year later.

Your domestic violence attorneys will start with a strong initial push to thoroughly investigate all aspects of your case and direct you to early therapeutic evaluations to establish a lack of dangerousness which is often the key to presenting a judge with the evidence necessary to establish that a blanket protective order is unnecessary.

Colorado law rigidly controls the type of plea bargains that domestic violence lawyers can negotiate to resolve a domestic violence case short of trial. In-home detention (a jail sentence alternative) is not permitted in a domestic violence case if the victim lives in the same home. Any consideration of a probationary sentence for a person marked as a domestic violence offender requires the Court to consider the victim’s safety. Under Colorado law prosecutors are only permitted to plea bargain away a domestic violence designation upon establishing for the Court that that he or she could not prove a domestic violence case existed if the case were to go to trial.

Please know that any person with three or more domestic violence-enhanced convictions can be charged with a Class 5 felony carrying a presumptive prison term of one to three years in the State penitentiary and a possible fine of $1,000 to $100,000.  In 2017 Colorado law was further changed to deny bail between conviction and sentencing for a conviction involving domestic violence felony stalking or habitual domestic violence.

In Colorado if your domestic violence lawyer resolves your case by plea bargain or if you are convicted at trial, the Court is required to sentence you to a State-approved domestic violence treatment program that can last 18 months or more. State-approved providers for domestic violence counseling are few and closely monitored by the Colorado Domestic Violence Offender Management Board. http://dcj.dvomb.state.co.us/

Colorado law requires that anyone who is convicted of a domestic violence related crime surrender any firearms or ammunition that they own. This is true even if the conviction is a deferred sentence (a contractual plea agreement that allows convictions to be withdrawn later if certain requirements are met).  Gun ownership rights are also now restricted by mandatory provisions if the Court issues a civil permanent protection order (PPO) and when a mandatory protection order is issued as a condition of bond in a domestic violence case.

This means that you, or your domestic violence attorney, must provide the Court with proof - within 24 hours of a domestic violence bond release or domestic violence conviction - showing that you have transferred your firearms and ammunition in compliance with Colorado law governing private firearm transfers, that is, any person that you would like to transfer your firearms to must pass a Colorado InstaCheck background check (although some police agencies have programs for storing firearms surrendered under the law).

In 2017 Colorado’s governor appointed a statewide domestic violence review board with the specific charge of proposing new and modified domestic violence policies that will continue to impact your freedom and rights if you are accused of any domestic violence crime.

Call Mertes Law now for a free consultation. You owe to it yourself and your family to understand your rights and to be represented by qualified and experienced domestic violence attorneys who will fight for you.

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