Colorado has some of the toughest domestic violence laws in the nation. Whenever the police are contacted about a domestic dispute, there is a high probability that someone will be arrested and taken to jail. If you have been wrongly accused of domestic violence in Colorado, you need an aggressive criminal defense attorney in your corner. Read on for more information about what you should do if accused.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is not a crime in itself. However, a judge can use it to enhance any sentence given for battery, sexual assault, or another crime. For this reason, domestic violence in Colorado is a big deal. You can spend more time in jail if you are found guilty of domestic violence.
The state’s domestic violence laws are found in Colorado Revised Statute § 18-6-800.3(1), which defines domestic violence as either an act of violence, or an act of threatened violence, against someone with whom you are involved in an intimate relationship. As defined, domestic violence does not have to involve physical contact. Threats can also qualify under the statute.
Domestic violence also includes crimes against property, animals, or relatives of your intimate partner, if done to coerce, intimidate, control, punish, or seek revenge. For example, killing an ex’s rabbit can qualify as domestic violence if you are trying to “get back” at him. Beating up an ex’s brother could also qualify.
Intimate Relationship is Required
What distinguishes domestic violence in Colorado from everyday battery or assault is the close relationship between the abuser and the abused. Colorado Revised Statute 18-6-800.3(2) defines “intimate relationship” as:
- Former spouses
- Unmarried couples
- Former unmarried couples
- Parents of the same child regardless of whether you have been married or lived together
An intimate relationship can be same-sex as well as opposite-sex.
Mandatory Arrest and Restraining Order
Colorado takes domestic violence so seriously that CRS § 18-6-803.6 states that if an officer believes there is probable cause that a crime involving domestic violence has been committed, then the officer shall arrest the suspect. This language is mandatory.
Furthermore, once an arrest has been made, a restraining order is automatically entered (called a “protection order”). This order will prevent you from returning to your home or having any contact with the alleged victim. If you violate the order, you can be charged with a crime and suffer additional punishments, such as fines, imprisonment, or additional restrictions.
Restraining orders also limit your ability to contact third parties, such as the alleged victim’s parents. If you violate this provision, you can also be picked up by the police.
How to Respond to an Arrest for Domestic Violence
Couples fight all the time. Maybe your spouse started to get physical and you defended yourself. Or maybe your ex is trying to get back at you by frivolously claiming you beat her. Whatever the circumstances, you could soon find yourself arrested and sitting in the back of a police cruiser, all because someone made an accusation of domestic violence.
In these situations, your best bet is to keep silent. You will definitely get a chance to challenge the accusation of domestic violence, but the worst thing you can do is make any incriminating statements to the police. Remember, the police can use anything you say against you later in court, and police officers will twist your statements out of shape to fit their own narrative.
Instead of talking, ask for an attorney. You might not be able to call anyone until after you are booked in jail, but that is okay. Call a lawyer as soon as possible.
Why Domestic Violence Cases are Complicated
One misconception our clients have is that the alleged victim can simply ask the police to drop the charges. Actually, the prosecutor’s hands are tied, and he or she can only drop a domestic violence charge if it would be impossible for them to prove the case at trial.
Unfortunately, what happens in a lot of cases is that the alleged victim feels guilty, knows that she lied to the police, and tries to patch things up. Your accuser might even start calling you or stopping by to visit—all while you are still under a court order not to have any contact with this person!
What our clients must absolutely not do is have contact with their accuser. Instead, refuse to pick up the phone and don’t open the door. As your attorney, we can explain to your accuser the law and why they must not contact you.
Furthermore, domestic violence complicates probation. One common option is at-home detention, which is often unavailable in domestic violence cases, since you cannot be in the same home as your accuser. Obtaining favorable probation conditions is therefore much more of a challenge.
How We Defend Against Domestic Violence Cases
The best defense is that you never committed the alleged actions. The state always has the burden of proof, even in domestic violence cases. For example, you might be accused of punching your wife. However, the state might not have adequate evidence to show that you are responsible for her injuries.
At Miller Leonard, our team can identify and exploit evidentiary gaps in the state’s case. We can also identify witnesses who can testify about what happened, perhaps clearing your name in the process.
Defending abuse cases is never easy, but we leave no stone unturned as we find the evidence that casts reasonable doubt on the charges. If you religiously follow the terms of your restraining order, then you have set yourself up for a decent chance of beating the charges and getting your life back.
Speak with a Colorado Domestic Violence Lawyer
Domestic violence accusations can dramatically upend your life. Our clients report feeling incredibly frustrated that one accusation against them can result in time in jail and restrictions on where they can go.
Nevertheless, an accusation is not a conviction, and it is often possible to beat both the criminal charge and get the restraining order lifted. Attorney Miller Leonard strives for the best outcome possible in domestic violence cases. To learn more about your options, please call 720-613-8783 for a free consultation.