Defense Against Colorado Domestic Assault Charges
If you are arrested for violation of any state’s statute that includes a domestic violence sentence enhancer, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel immediately. Because multiple state legislatures have adopted very specific statutes designed to protect victims of domestic violence, police officers must now respond to any 911 call that could potentially involve a domestic violence statute by making a decision concerning who the most culpable party is and arresting them and taking them to jail.
The statute is designed to protect victims who call 911 for help, and then are threatened by violent partners during the period of time from the call until police arrive. The concern is that the caller could be intimidated into saying the call was made in error and that there was no incident of violence. This means that if someone calls 911 and the officers see evidence of a disagreement or violence and determine that an “intimate relationship” exists, someone is going to be arrested and taken to jail, regardless of what statements are made when the police arrive.
Very often, rather innocuous behavior between two people—such as yelling, one too many unwelcome phone calls, or things said in anger—result in one or both parties being arrested and charged with crimes. Once you are issued a citation that includes a domestic violence sentence enhancer, it is extremely difficult for the district attorney to drop that portion of the charges.
If someone calls 911 and the officers see evidence of a disagreement or violence and determine that an “intimate relationship” exists, someone is going to be arrested and taken to jail, regardless of what statements are made when the police arrive.
Domestic violence is defined in Colorado as involvement in an “intimate relationship,” meaning a sexual relationship either past or present, and conduct that is meant to “coerce or intimidate.”The police officer will ask the complaining party whether or not he/she is or ever was involved in an “intimate relationship” with the offender, and once the determination is made and a domestic violence charge is included on the citation, the district attorney does not have the discretion to remove domestic violence in any plea negotiation.
The presence of domestic violence in your criminal charges has very serious implications that are not immediately apparent.
For example, a defendant may accept a plea that involves a deferred sentence, which is typical in offenses that do not involve physical injury. After the period of time determined for the deferment—usually two years—if you have no other violations of the law, the conviction is overturned. However, although the accompanying charge—often it’s third-degree assault or harassment —is overturned, the domestic violence sentence enhancer remains on your criminal record indefinitely. Even with a plea of a two-year deferred sentence, the defendant will be required to pay for and complete 36 weekly domestic violence classes.
A domestic violence conviction has several negative ancillary implications:
- You can not own a gun under any circumstances.
- A non-citizen with immigration reporting requirements will likely be deported.
- Your charge must be reported to employers in several professions, such as banking and securities, aviation, medicine, and education.
Elaine Lukic is a former sexual assault/domestic violence district attorney with extensive experience in prosecuting and defending domestic violence cases. Because of her knowledge in this area and the vast number of cases that she has handled, she is aware of the serious implications these charges can have on a defendant’s personal life and professional career.