Have You Been Charged with Domestic Violence?
Each year in Colorado, more than 14,000 people are charged with misdemeanor “domestic violence” (DV) crimes. Contrary to what you might think, to be arrested for DV, the arrestee and the “victim” need not be married or in a domestic partnership and the arrestee need not have acted violently or caused the victim injury. Nevertheless, the traditional image of a “wife-beater” continues to be associated with DV, and therefore a conviction for even a very low-level DV crime, such as harassment-DV, can have devastating repercussions for your employment or in child custody disputes. If you have been charged with any DV crime, the attorneys at Hebets & McCallin will put years of experience to work to minimize the impact of the charge on your life.
What is Domestic Violence?
Colorado law defines DV in two ways. First, the traditional notion, includes “any act or threatened act of violence” against someone with whom you have or have had an “intimate relationship.” Second, DV includes “any other crime . . . or municipal ordinance violation . . . used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation or revenge” against someone with whom you have or have had an intimate relationship. As you can see, even very minor misbehavior can be legally elevated to DV depending upon your relationship to the alleged victim.
Furthermore, “intimate relationship” means current and former spouses, current and former couples (heterosexual and homosexual), and parents of the same child. A relationship need not be between adults or be sexual in nature to qualify. For example, high school students who are dating may meet the definition of “intimate relationship” for purposes of DV charges. Perhaps an unintended consequence of a legitimate effort to protect victims of serious abuse, Colorado’s DV laws are routinely applied to simple arguments with boyfriends or girlfriends, transforming 30 minute lovers’ spats into legal dramas that can drag out for years. Whether you have been accused of a very serious crime, such as felony assault-DV, or something less serious, Hebets & McCallin is prepared to defend your rights and ensure the most favorable outcome possible in your case.
DV cases usually start when one significant other (past or present) calls the police to report misbehavior of the other significant other. Once the police realize that the caller is complaining about a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or ex-, the police consider the caller a DV victim. This triggers Colorado’s mandatory arrest laws. If police have probable cause to believe someone has committed an act of DV, they are required to arrest the suspect as soon as possible. Police may believe they have probable cause based solely on the alleged victim’s statement. Thus, once your significant other calls the police, you are almost certainly going to be arrested for DV.
Domestic Violence Crime in Colorado
Alleged victims of DV have rights under a law called the “Victim’s Rights Act” and the “Victim’s Rights Amendment” to the Colorado Constitution. They must be consulted by the district attorney before the arrestee may be released on bond, which basically guarantees that the arrested party will be held overnight in jail. The alleged victim has a right to be present and be heard at the defendant’s bond hearing. The alleged victim also has the right to be consulted by the district attorney regarding any plea agreement offers made, as well as to be present for all critical stages of the case, such as motions hearing, trial, or sentencing hearing. While the alleged victim’s wishes cannot force the district attorney to act one way or another, they are very persuasive.
Can The Courts Keep Me From Seeing My Partner?
Every DV case in Colorado comes with a “mandatory protection order” (MPO), known elsewhere as a “restraining order.” An MPO is a court order directing you to behave in particular ways, mostly regarding the alleged victim. MPOs can direct you to refrain from any contact with the victim, whether in person or by phone or email. MPOs generally direct that the accused may not be in any location where the alleged victim is likely to be. This often means that you cannot return to your home if you live with the victim. However, MPOs can also be structured to allow full contact or limited contact. How the MPO is written in a given case depends largely upon the alleged victim’s wishes as communicated to the district attorney, as well as the defense attorney’s arguments both before and at the bond hearing.
Every MPO in every Colorado DV case will have a box checked indicating that the case is subject to the “Brady Act.” This is a federal law that prevents people charged with DV from possessing firearms. If you are charged with DV, and you own any guns, you are required to surrender your guns to the sheriff within 24 hours of your release from custody. Your guns remain in the sheriff’s possession until your case is completely resolved. If gun rights are important to you, certain DV convictions can be disastrous. Depending upon the charge, even a misdemeanor conviction will result in you forfeiting your right to gun ownership and use forever. Furthermore, if you are convicted of certain misdemeanor DV crimes, Colorado law makes subsequent possession of a firearm a felony.
Some MPOs will include other conditions preventing you from possessing or consuming alcohol, marijuana, or other non-prescription substances. Violation of any MPO condition is itself a whole new crime. Thus, it is imperative that you understand the conditions of your MPO and that you comply with those conditions. The attorneys at Hebets & McCallin can help you decipher the MPO in your case and can also ask the court to modify the MPO in your case to make it less burdensome for you.
If this is not the first time you have been accused of committing DV, you could be facing more serious penalties. Colorado law gives the district attorney the power to increase a misdemeanor DV charge to a class five felony charge (with a one year minimum prison sentence) if the defendant has had three previous DV convictions. If this law might apply to you, it is critical that you obtain legal representation in your case. Hebets & McCallin is prepared to fight against you being branded a “habitual DV criminal.”
At Hebets & McCallin, we understand that domestic disturbances often get blown out of proportion. We have many years of experience persuading district attorneys to set emotion aside and see the reality of what happened in an alleged DV case. We have successfully defended many clients charged with DV, obtaining not guilty verdicts at trial, dismissals, and deferred judgments, which do not result in conviction. Whether you and the alleged victim are on good terms or bad, it is especially advisable to obtain legal representation in DV cases. Please call us for a free consultation.