Domestic violence cases in Colorado are taken very seriously, and defendants are unfortunately at a major disadvantage right off the bat due to new laws designed to protect victims. The law makes it easier for police to arrest an individual suspected of committing an act of violence or abuse, even if the victim is too frightened or intimidated to tell their story when officers arrive.
That said, if you're on the receiving end of the blame, especially if there was a genuine accident or your ex is trying to manipulate you by making false accusations, Colorado law isn't on your side. Here's what you need to know about Colorado domestic violence cases and how you can increase your chances of getting the charges against you dropped or dismissed.
There are two sets of laws that make it difficult for suspects of domestic violence or child abuse to defend themselves effectively.
While most states leave whether to make an arrest up to the discretion of the police officer who responds to a domestic violence call, Colorado does not. The state has what is known as a mandatory arrest law, meaning that if certain predetermined criteria are met, the officer must make an arrest regardless of whether they feel the arrest would improve the situation or cause further harm.
The indicators used by police to determine if there is a likelihood that a domestic violence report is legitimate are revenge, coercion, control, intimidation, and punishment. If a law enforcement officer responding to a domestic violence call has reason to believe that one or more of these are occurring or have occurred, they are obligated to make an arrest.
As of 2018, Colorado has also increased the time to report a domestic violence incident. Before this change, the statute of limitations for reporting an incident and seeking a civil suit for damages against the defendant was one year — the same as the criminal statute of limitations for crimes like assault, battery, stalking, etc.
Now, an alleged victim has six (6) years to file a domestic violence report and seek restitution for the harm supposedly caused them. If the victim is considered seriously disabled, they may have up to twenty (20) years to make a report. From a victim's standpoint, these laws afford individuals who were critically hurt and traumatized the time they need to recover. In many cases, this is beneficial.
However, from the defendant's standpoint, the extended time given to victims to report in conjunction with mandatory arrest laws makes it extremely easy for someone with ill intent to take advantage of false allegations.
Although the mandatory arrest law is well-meaning, the ambiguity it creates is the perfect scenario for people who wish to use threats of domestic violence charges to control someone else to do so successfully.
For example, an alleged victim may report child abuse or assault against themselves and call the police. The police may arrive at the scene and although the alleged victim is lying, the police may sense that the victim was likely to have been coerced or threatened with punishment if they told the truth. Under mandatory arrest laws, there would then be enough probable cause to arrest the defendant, even if there is no actual evidence of the abuse having occurred.
Once a domestic violence report is made, a protection order or restraining order can be issued, and you may not be able to see your children or go within a certain number of feet of your ex until you can prove the allegations were false. This limits where you can go, what you can do, and even prevents you from having a healthy relationship with any children you may have. Getting to court to prove your innocence takes time, and even when your case is heard, there's still a risk that you will not be believed or that your story will be disregarded in favor of that of the alleged victim.
As a result of these changes in criminal law, many Colorado residents are facing the threat of jail, fines, and other serious penalties for a crime they didn't commit — there's now too much gray area where domestic violence is concerned. It could be argued that there wasn't enough nuance before these changes, and victims who were unable to make a report within the one-year statute of limitations were left without recourse. That said, the increase to the statute of limitations was significant and afforded much more time than may even be necessary.
One of the primary issues caused by these changes is that it makes it too easy for police to make an arrest in the first place. Even if a suspect is arrested and later exonerated and the charges are dropped, the arrest itself is still on the defendant's record. Although they face no penalties like jail or fines, the arrest still creates or adds to a criminal record.
When an employer or other entity does a background check, the arrest record will appear, but it will generally not be noted that the domestic violence charges were dropped or that you were found not guilty in court. This allows anyone running a background check on you to see incomplete information that can lead to snap judgments made in error. A defendant may be able to get the arrest records expunged, but it's possible that they may not be eligible depending on the nature of the accusations and arrest, regardless of if the defendant was actually found to be innocent on all accounts.
If you are facing domestic violence charges in Colorado, it's critical that you take action to protect yourself as quickly as possible. Your future, reputation, career, and relationships are at risk, and you don't have time to delay. Once you've been arrested, you could have a record for the rest of your life, even if you're later found not guilty.
Working with a criminal defense lawyer that has experience in domestic violence cases can help increase the chances of you receiving a favorable verdict after being accused of domestic violence, including the possibility that the judge will drop the charges against you entirely or that you will be found innocent after your case is heard by a jury of your peers.
Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your domestic violence case in more detail or to learn about our other practice areas and legal services. During your consultation call, you'll speak with a Denver criminal defense attorney to discuss the merits of your case. We'll work with you to determine the next best step to protect your rights against false accusations of domestic violence in Colorado and how to pursue getting the charges against you dropped.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
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