8 Things to know about Domestic Violence offenses in Colorado
1 Domestic Violence Can Be Any Crime
It's commonly misunderstood that Domestic Violence charges mean that someone was violent during the events concerning the charge. In Colorado, "Domestic Violence" of course means an act or threatened act of violence upon someone with whom the accused has had intimate relationship. But that is not the only way a crime may be classified as "Domestic Violence." It also includes any crime committed as a means of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge against an intimate partner. So, for example, if a girlfriend breaks her boyfriend's Sony Playstation when he is not even home, because she is mad he went out with another girl to the movies, it is arguably an act of domestic violence.
2 Colorado Has Mandatory Arrest Laws
For most crimes, a peace officer in Colorado is given discretion when and where, and even if, to charge and or arrest someone. Not so in Domestic Violence Cases. If officers are called out and they have probable cause to believe someone committed an act of Domestic Violence, the suspect of the crime must be arrested. The legislature has told the officer that he must do this "without undue delay" meaning that if the person is there, the arrest must be made then and there. In addition, the arrested person will be booked into jail and cannot be given a bond until the victim has been informed of the bond hearing and given a right to be heard.
3 A Victim Cannot "Drop Charges"; Only the State "Presses Charges"
For whatever reason, the person who reported the crime may decide they no longer want to pursue a case (perhaps they never wanted to go forward with the case); this does not however mean that the case will be dismissed on that fact alone. All crimes in Colorado are said to be affronts to the peace and dignity of the State. Despite someone being designated the victim, only the DA who is prosecuting the case can make the call about whether the case goes forward or not. Except for unusual circumstance, even a judge cannot dismiss the case.
4 Domestic Violence cases are Victim's Rights Cases
Under the Colorado Constitution, some crimes are considered victims' rights cases. By definition, all Domestic Violence crimes are victim's rights cases. This means that the victim has several rights, including the right to consult with the DA before any offers are made and when bond is addressed. They have the right to speak at sentencing and to be notified when an incarcerated defendant will be released. Despite the fact that a victim cannot control whether a case is prosecuted or not, the victim can have a dramatic effect on how a case turns out.
5 Sometimes, Misdemeanor Charges Can Be Elevated to Felony Charges
In Colorado, if a person is convicted of an offense which would otherwise be a domestic violence misdemeanor and has already been previously convicted three times of acts of domestic violence, the person may be considered a habitual domestic violence offender and misdemeanor may be bumped to a class 5 felony. If the person is found by the court to be an habitual domestic violence offender, the court would then sentence in the presumptive range for a class 5 felony or 1 to 3 years. The DA has to give notice to the accused that they intend to do this, but keep in mind that while the accused may initially be charged with only misdemeanors, the DA may amend the charges upward if the accused has a significant domestic violence criminal history.
6 A Domestic Violence Conviction Will Impact Gun Rights
Federal law mandates that anyone convicted of a Domestic Violence charge can not possess a firearm. If the Domestic Violence conviction is for a felony, State law also makes it a felony to possess a firearm. These bans are for lifetime.
7 A Domestic Violence Conviction Will Result in DV Classes
Any sentence imposed by the court for a domestic violence crime, must order the defendant to complete a treatment program and a treatment evaluation. The domestic violence management treatment board, a state agency, approves both the treatment providers and the treatment. This gives the board a tremendous amount of power. In most cases, even for very low level misdemeanors, this means at least 36 one hour sessions over the course of 36 weeks. The treatment is required even if the person receives a deferred judgment and sentence. The only time treatment will not be imposed is if the person is sent to prison.
8 No In Home Detention on DV cases
For non-DV cases, in-home detention, sometimes called Electric Home Monitoring or EHM, is normally available as a sentence to custody or as a condition of probation. However, someone who is convicted of a Domestic Violence crime, is not eligible for home detention in the home of the victim. The only way someone could qualify for home detention is if they did not live with the victim - obviously something that rarely happens with married couples.
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