Domestic violence is a serious issue. Colorado’s domestic violence laws follow what is known as mandatory arrest policies. Domestic violence mandatory arrest means that the person accused of the violence is arrested if the officer believes there is probable cause to make an arrest.
The presence of mandatory arrest gives the falsehood that victims are protected by the law, but relationships are complicated with a lot of victims choosing not the call the police.
Domestic Violence Mandatory Arrest in Colorado
Probable cause is ambiguous because the officer isn’t given the time or discretion to investigate the matter. In most cases, an arrest is made when there is a potential for domestic violence. The officers are not able to investigate the matter, so an arrest is a likely outcome.
In domestic violence cases, where the victim is concerned that a partner, father, mother of a child, or financial supporter may go to jail, victims don’t call in domestic violence.
Victims want the abuse to stop, but they often don’t want their partners to be arrested.
There’s also the concern that mandatory arrests may be used as a means of malice. Since most calls end up with an arrest, one partner can claim domestic violence even if the statement is false.
In Colorado, law enforcement can determine probable cause through indicators, including:
If any of these indicators are present, an arrest must be made. The goal is simple: stop the domestic violence from reoccurring or escalating.
With rising domestic violence deaths, Colorado lawmakers are working to train police departments on how to properly assess the sensitive domestic violence calls that are made.
“It means that when police officers show up in a situation, they are able to know how to talk to victims of domestic violence, know what the options are, be able to collect evidence, and be able to make it more likely that victims will protect themselves and create the record they may need later,” explains Attorney General Phil Weiser.
Domestic violence is tied to another crime for criminal charges to be made.
Tying domestic violence to these other crimes can be complex or impossible in some cases.
33% of Domestic Violence Charges are Dismissed
One-in-three domestic violence cases are dismissed, so there’s a good chance that if you’re arrested, the charges will not be on your record. Women are far more likely than men to have charges dismissed.
When convictions are made, 66% of the time, charges are misdemeanor assault.
Felony assault occurs in 7% of the cases.
If there is no evidence of abuse, the case is likely to be dismissed.
False Guilty Pleas Are Problematic
If a person is arrested, they may plead guilty to the charges in an attempt to get back to their normal life. When a person accused of domestic violence doesn’t understand the impact of a guilty plea, they will:
- Lose their right to own or possess a firearm
- Struggle to find housing
- Struggle to find employment
Lawmakers have, for years, mulled over the idea of domestic violence mandatory arrest and have considered replacing the law with something else.
There are a lot of cases of abuse that are valid. When valid, arrests should be made, and convictions should follow. The issue with the law is that probable cause is too vague and opens the door to arresting an innocent person.
Disputes that are not domestic violence can still lead to an arrest.
When the accused doesn’t understand that their actions were not illegal, they may plead guilty to charges because they don’t understand the law.
A lawyer examining the case would be able to argue on the person’s behalf and have the charges dropped.
Penalties in domestic violence assault vary depending on the seriousness of the crime, criminal history, injury severity, and type of assault. Charges vary based on all of these factors and may include:
- Jail or prison sentence
A class 3 felony for a first-degree assault charge can have fines as high as $750,000 and up to 32 years in prison. Sentences for lesser charges can still lead to thousands of dollars in fines and years in prison.
The accused may also face additional penalties, including:
- Restraining order
- Status of a habitual domestic violence offender
- Treatment programs
If you’re accused of domestic violence, you can fight the charges, even if you’ve been arrested. Due to mandatory arrest policies, a lot of people plead guilty. Fighting domestic violence charges is possible with defenses revolving around:
- Lack of intent
- Defense of others
There’s also the chance that the charges may be lowered if the actions were done in the “heat of passion.” An attorney will investigate the incident, identify which defense will work best in your case, and fight on your behalf.
While mandatory, arrest policies are designed to help stop the abuse. But there are times of injustice where domestic violence didn’t occur, and a person is found guilty. A domestic violence lawyer can help get charges lowered or dismissed in these circumstances.