The consequences of domestic violence impact not just the individual charged with the offense, but the entire family. Aside from the potential physical and emotional damages of domestic violence, criminal charges can compromise the entire family’s future in some situations.
Although domestic violence should never be tolerated, sometimes a simple misunderstanding or disagreement gone too far can result in charges that both the alleged victim and the accused perpetrator come to regret. In this case, the victim’s testimony may be helpful in getting charges dropped – or at least increase the chances of an acquittal at trial.
Below, we’re going to discuss Colorado domestic violence laws so that you as a family know what you’re up against when dealing with charges, including the role that the alleged victim plays in Colorado domestic violence cases.
Colorado Domestic Violence Laws
Unlike some other states, Colorado does not have a specific statute for domestic violence as opposed to a physical assault or another crime committed against a stranger.
However, Colorado’s criminal code does define domestic violence as the following:
- Act of violence or threatened violence against a person
- With whom the defendant has an intimate relationship (such as a current or former spouse, partner), or is a co-habitant or co-parent with whom the defendant may or may not have had a prior romantic relationship
- In which the act is intended to punish, intimidate, coerce, control, or seek revenge against the victim
Domestic Violence Sentencing and Penalties in Colorado
If accused of domestic violence in Colorado, you will face potential criminal charges for the act itself (for example, assault and battery), and domestic violence penalties under the Colorado criminal code if the act was committed against someone with whom you have or have had an intimate relationship with.
For an assault conviction, you can face anywhere between 6 months and 24 years in prison, depending on the degree of assault, as well as fines of up to $750,000.
If convicted of domestic violence, you face the following civil and potential criminal penalties:
- Domestic violence treatment program, if not sentenced to prison
- House arrest
- Protection orders
- Restrictions on gun ownership and possession
- If there are three or more prior domestic violence convictions, charges of being a habitual domestic violence offender (Class 5 Felony)
The Victim’s Role in a Domestic Violence Case
Alleged victims play many roles in a domestic violence case.
They will most likely be required to testify in court against your alleged abuser, and they may be asked to appear in court for other purposes, or to retrieve evidence or documents for the court.
Before a domestic violence case goes to trial, victims are often brought in to explain their opinions on the matter. If the judge is determining whether to release the alleged abuser, a victim may be asked to discuss whether they agree with the release decision and why.
If a victim feels that their alleged abuser presents an ongoing danger to them or their children, they may also file a restraining order. A restraining order will help provide safety by forcing the abuser to give up his or her guns and barring them from making any kind of contact.
There is one thing a victim can’t do, though: drop the charges.
Why? Because victim are not the ones who file charges in the first place. Rather, they are filed by the State, as with all criminal charges.
This means that victims have no means to drop charges. The only one who can do this is the prosecutor on the case.
That being said, if you have been named as the victim of alleged domestic violence and feel that the charges are inappropriate, you can still work to fight against them.
- You can ask the prosecutor to drop the charges. There is no guarantee, but your wishes and arguments may carry some weight depending on the situation.
- You can show that you are competent and emotionally stable. Often, prosecutors and others take victims’ desire to have charges dropped with a grain of salt because they know that their actions may be guided by pressure, manipulation, or a lack of understanding about the danger the alleged abuser poses.
- You can recant your statement. Victims of domestic violence typically give a statement to police and/or investigators regarding the situation and what happened. However, if they later feel that this statement is inaccurate, they are permitted to recant it. This means that they are withdrawing the original claims of abuse they made to police and investigators or stating that the original statements were exaggerated. About 80-90% of domestic violence victims ultimately recant their statements, but it is something to seriously think about before doing it. Why? Because those who recent could face charges of falsifying statements made to law enforcement or the courts system, or for being in contempt of court.
One of the most devastating effects of domestic violence is that it can leave victims feeling powerless. Unfortunately, those who feel like domestic violence penalties go to far may end up feeling the same way when they learn that they don’t have the ability to drop charges.
You are not powerless, though – you just need to understand the different actions you can take to impact the outcome of the case.
About the Author:
Since 2005, Jeffrey L. Weeden has been practicing criminal defense law in Colorado and has helped countless clients protect their rights and freedoms as a respected, caring, hard-nosed criminal defense attorney. Over the course of his career, Mr. Weeden’s work has been recognized in numerous ways, including being named to the Top 100 Trial Lawyers list by The National Trial Lawyers, earning a 10.0 “Suberb” Avvo rating, receiving Martindale-Hubbard’s highest peer review rating — AV Preeminent, and being asked to speak on several issues of interest to the legal community. Additionally, he is someone who cares deeply about his community and those in need, and is an active member of a number of professional legal organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center and Law Firm Pro Bono Coordinators.