The basics of Colorado domestic violence laws

Colorado officials are increasingly taking a no-nonsense approach to enforcing the state's domestic violence laws. A conviction on domestic violence charges can result in prison or jail time, interference with child custody, job loss and other life-altering consequences.

As such, if you have been accused of domestic violence, it is important to take steps to understand the law and mount a strong defense. This is true even if you believe you have been wrongly accused.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Under Colorado law, domestic violence occurs whenever a person uses force, coercion or intimidation against an intimate partner. Two people do not have to be living together in order for an act to constitute domestic violence. Depending on the facts of the case, it can be enough for the two people to be dating or engaging in a sexual relationship. "Intimate partners" also includes parents of a child, even if the parents are no longer in a relationship.

Furthermore, an act can constitute domestic violence even if the abuser has not physically harmed the victim in any way. Harming (or threatening to harm) a person's pet, property or another person can also constitute domestic violence. It can also be considered domestic violence to harass a partner, stalk them or interfere with their access to phone service.

What To Expect After An Accusation

In Colorado, police officers are required to make an arrest whenever they have probable cause to believe that a person has committed domestic violence. In most cases, the person will be taken to jail and cannot be released until there has been a bond hearing.

Contrary to popular perception, victims of domestic violence do not have the authority to decide not to press charges. Even if the victim decides not to participate in the case, the state can still pursue criminal charges against the alleged abusers. Alleged abusers who attempt to intimidate victims into not cooperating with police can expect to face additional penalties.

Victims may also choose to pursue protection orders (also known as restraining orders) that prevent the alleged abuser from contacting the victim or coming within a certain distance of the victim's home or place of employment. Violating a protective order is a crime that can result in penalties above and beyond those imposed for the underlying domestic violence charge.

Working With A Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with domestic violence, it is important to contact an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney. Ideally, you should consult with an attorney before making any statements to the police. Not only will the attorney be able to help you defend against the charges, but he or she will also be able to advise you on the appropriate course of action to take to avoid encountering any further trouble.