In Colorado, domestic violence is not its own criminal offense, but rather it is a sentencing enhancement that will increase the penalty of any other crime where the victim and the accused are or were in an intimate relationship. As a result, determining if domestic violence is a felony charge will often depend on numerous factors, including the underlying crime.
What Is Domestic Violence?
According to Colorado Revised Statute §18-6-800.3, domestic violence is defined as an act or a threatened act of violence against someone with whom the defendant currently has or previously had an intimate relationship. Because this definition is quite expansive, it can apply to several different individuals, including those with whom the defendant shares biological children, even if there was never a dating relationship.
Domestic violence often involves verbal abuse such as yelling or sending the victim threats, emotional abuse, sexual violence, and physical violence. Additionally, domestic violence can also include any other crime against a person or their property (such as a pet) when used to control, punish, intimidate, coerce, or exact revenge on an intimate partner.
Is Domestic Violence a Felony Charge or a Misdemeanor?
In most situations, a domestic violence crime will be charged as a misdemeanor in Colorado. However, it can be escalated to a felony if any of the below circumstances are present:
- The victim suffered a serious bodily injury
- The victim endured sexual assault
- Physical harm or sexual assault occurred to a minor
- The defendant has previous convictions of domestic violence or other crimes
Domestic Violence-Related Crimes in Denver That Are Charged as Felonies and Misdemeanors
The following seven felony crimes can be charged with a domestic violence enhancement in Denver:
- Child abuse
- First-degree assault
- Second-degree assault
- False imprisonment
- Unlawful sexual contact
On the other hand, the following six domestic violence-related crimes can be charged as a misdemeanor:
- Third-degree assault
- Child abuse, only if there are no-to-minor injuries and the defendant does not have any previous convictions
- Unlawful sexual contact, if the victim was not forced to submit to sexual contact
- Menacing, if no deadly weapons or representations of deadly weapons were involved
- False imprisonment, if the detainment was under 12 hours or if the defendant did not use any threats or force to keep the individual detained
Mandatory Arrest and Charges Following a Domestic Violence Situation
When it comes to domestic violence issues, these cases are unlike any others, primarily because suspicions or even allegations of domestic violence automatically require the police to make an arrest in Denver.
This means that if the authorities are called out to check on a domestic violence situation and these officers believe or have probable cause that an act of domestic violence has occurred, under the state’s laws, they must make an arrest of the suspected aggressor. The purpose of this mandatory arrest is to prevent further violence from continuing or escalating to a more potentially serious or deadly level of danger.
Consequently, alleged victims of domestic violence cannot drop charges against an alleged abuser. Instead, the government will decide whether or not they will prosecute a case.
Domestic violence in Denver is not a standalone crime. It is a label that enhances the sentence of those people who are convicted of a related act. This means that the criminal act will often determine whether the crime is considered a misdemeanor or felony.
For these reasons, anyone who is convicted of a crime involving domestic violence may be facing jail or prison time and fines as well as the following additional penalties:
- Restraining orders
- A domestic violence treatment program
- Alcohol or drug counseling
- Restrictions related to possessing or owning a firearm
- A habitual domestic violence offender status
Under Colorado House Bill HB16-1066, habitual domestic violence offender refers to a person who is convicted of a misdemeanor involving an underlying factual basis of domestic violence and has three previous convictions that include an act of domestic violence. As a result, these individuals may be looking at a punishment of one to three years in a Colorado state prison and a fine between $1,000 and $100,000.
If You Have Been Accused of Domestic Violence in Denver
If you have been accused of a crime involving domestic violence, it is important to stay calm and take action. This means you want to avoid answering any questions without having experienced legal counsel present and make sure you speak with an experienced Denver domestic violence attorney as soon as possible.
These lawyers may be able to get your charges dismissed or reduced and will provide you with the legal support you need during this challenging time. They can strengthen your defense by proving:
- You acted in self-defense; or
- The victim’s injuries were self-inflicted; or
- You were not present at the time of the incident;
That is why should not wait any longer to seek the legal help you need. Instead, contact an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney today for a free case review and see how these lawyers can help you fight for your rights and freedom.