Domestic Violence Charges

Domestic violence charges in Colorado are extremely serious. Even when they are “just” misdemeanors, these charges can send you to jail and the unemployment line quickly. They also will take away your right to own a firearm forever, under the infamous “Lautenberg Amendment.”

The American criminal justice system is inherently unfair. A big part of that unfairness is that who your lawyer is can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. A great lawyer is going to increase your chances of a great result. And a terrible lawyer will increase your chances of a terrible result. That is why for your future and your family, you should hire the best defense attorney possible for your situation.

If you cannot afford an attorney, do not, under any circumstances, try to speak to the prosecutor or the judge by yourself. Instead, just ask anyone at court trying to discuss your case with you for the public defender. Sure, public defenders are overworked and sometimes inexperienced. However, just this little bit of help can be life-changing for the better.

What is Domestic Violence in Colorado?

Domestic violence in Colorado is a label attached to certain charges that makes those charges more serious in the eyes of the law. The police will attach this label whenever the alleged victim and the person charged had some type of romantic or intimate relationship at some point in the past.

Any kind of criminal charge can be turned into a domestic violence charge. The domestic violence tag is simply a sentence-enhancer, which subjects you to additional penalties that do not normally apply in the average case.

For example, there are regular assault charges, where the allegation is that someone hit or kicked another person. But if those people had any kind of romantic involvement in the past, then the assault charge becomes domestic violence assault. This means that the case is handled in a different way by the courts, namely, more harshly.

Domestic Violence Charges

Here are some of the most common domestic violence charges and a summary of what they mean:

Third Degree Assault

  • Class one misdemeanor;
  • Possible two-year jail sentence;
  • The prosecutor must prove that you knowingly caused some physical contact with another and that the physical contact caused some pain to the victim.

Harassment

  • Class three misdemeanor
  • Possible six-month jail sentence
  • The prosecutor must prove that you caused some unwanted physical contact with another; or that you made unwanted repeated phone calls; or that you followed someone around to harass him or her; or that you repeated insulted someone; or that you made some obscene gesture or comment; or that you made some threat over the phone.

Telephone Obstruction

  • Class one misdemeanor;
  • Possible eighteen-month jail sentence;
  • The prosecutor must prove that you obstructed someone from calling the police somehow, even if it is just taking his or her phone away for a short period of time.

Violation of a Protection Order or a Restraining Order

  • Class one misdemeanor;
  • Possible eighteen-month jail sentence;
  • The prosecutor must prove that you made contact with another person in some way in violation of a protection or restraining order.

False Imprisonment

  • Class two misdemeanor;
  • Possible one-year jail sentence;
  • The prosecutor must prove that you confined someone without his or her consent.

Criminal Mischief

  • Misdemeanor for minor property damage; Felony for more expensive damage;
  • The possible jail sentence depends on the monetary amount of the alleged property damage;
  • The prosecutor must prove that you destroyed someone else’s property.

Second Degree Assault

  • Class four felony;
  • Mandatory five to sixteen years in prison;
  • The prosecutor must prove that you knowingly caused a broken bone or other serious injury; or, the prosecutor must prove that you caused a minor injury with any object that could be considered a weapon.

First Degree Assault

  • Class three felony;
  • Mandatory ten to thirty-two years in prison;
  • The prosecutor must prove that you knowingly caused some serious bodily injury with any object that could be considered a weapon.

Military Members

A special concern applies to members of the United States Military who are charged with domestic violence. Any type of plea bargain in this type of case will automatically get you chaptered out of the military. This is due to the “Lautenberg Amendment.” This is a law that says that anyone who does any kind of plea bargain involving domestic violence or who is convicted of domestic violence cannot carry a firearm. Due to current military regulations, this means that you will be discharged.

Mandatory Restraining and Protection Order

Every person who is arrested for domestic violence in Colorado is subject to a mandatory restraining order or protection order. This means that you cannot contact the alleged victim in your case in any way until the order expires. This even applies to so-called “third-party contact.” Third-party contact means that you have someone else contact the victim on your behalf.

Even worse, if you contact the alleged victim in your case during the protection order period, the prosecutors and district attorneys will charge you with an additional case of witness tampering. This is a class three felony, and it is incredibly serious.

Throughout your case, you simply cannot discuss the charges with the alleged victim, even if the restraining order is lifted. If you say the wrong thing to the wrong person, you will be facing witness intimidation charges. We have seen tragic situations where something said was misconstrued, which resulted in these serious charges being leveled.

Since you are the restrained person and not the alleged victim, these rules apply even if he or she is trying to contact you. If you pick up the phone, it’s you who will get into hot water, not the alleged victim. The victim has no such obligation to stay away from you, but you have this obligation even if the victim initiates contact.

Can the Victim Drop the Charges?

A common misconception is that the alleged victim of domestic violence charges can drop them by calling the prosecutor or the district attorney handling the case. This is not true. The law in Colorado says that the victim is not pressing these charges; rather, it is the State of Colorado pressing the charges. The prosecutor or district attorney cannot legally dismiss your case simply because the alleged victim wants it dismissed.

In fact, it can sometimes make the situation worse if the victim asks to drop the charges. This happens when the overzealous prosecutor or district attorney interprets this phone call asking to drop the case as the victim being pressured or intimidated by the defendant to make the call. After that, the prosecutor or district attorney can become even more aggressive.

What Should I Do Now?

First, do not speak to the police or anyone else about the situation. We know this sounds like strange advice, but there is a reason that you have the right to remain silent under the Constitution. We have seen many times where someone says something wrong that ends up causing more legal problems.

Second, do not contact the alleged victim in any way or for any reason during the time that the restraining order is in place. Do not pick up the phone if he or she is trying to call or text you. You will get into huge trouble even if you respond to the calls or texts.

Third, you should hire the best criminal defense lawyer you can. There are unfortunately a lot of terrible attorneys handling this type of case. These attorneys have no idea what they are doing or have no ability to take your case in front of a jury to vindicate you.

To speak to an experienced domestic violence defense attorney for free about your charges, please call Laybourne Law Firm at 719-381-1707.

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