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Understanding Domestic Violence Charges

In my experience working as an attorney in Boulder, Colorado, domestic violence charges are rarely as cut-and-dry or as blatantly violent as most of the general public has been led to believe.

That’s not to say that domestic violence doesn’t exist – it does, and it’s really terrible when it happens – but the majority of cases I see in my office generally fall into two situations:

In the first situation, neither party wants the police involved and they’re certainly not interested in pressing charges. Emotions were flying high and one of them called the police to have them calm things down during a conflict at home. This is a surprisingly common occurrence.

In the second situation, a husband or wife knows that he or she can try and gain an advantage in a divorce or legal situation if the other side has a domestic violence charge, and wants to leverage things to his/her advantage.

In today’s blog post, I’m going talk a bit more about cases that fall into the first category. In my next post I’ll talk about the second category.

When No One Wants the Police Involved

About 30% of the domestic violence cases I get are situations where neither member of the couple wants to press charges. Like I mentioned above, they were likely engaged in a heated argument, one of them called the police to get things to calm down, and now they’re dealing with arrests, allegations and potential charges, and protection orders.

Often, these couples come to me saying, “Look, we’ve been married for many years, it really wasn’t a big deal and there’s no way I want protection orders and criminal charges.”

To be clear, these situations are not part of the “Circle of Violence,” a situation where the woman (or, less frequently, the man) is so frightened of his or her partner that he/she will say anything to pacify the other side. In my cases, the people are relatively normal, level-headed people who felt that the police would be helpful in defusing a situation.

However, it doesn’t take much for a situation to technically become “domestic violence.” In fact, being charged with domestic violence doesn’t even require physical force against the other person. I had a case where the parties separated physically, but still hoped to salvage the marriage. The husband was a little paranoid and wanted to know if his wife was fooling around. He “borrowed” her key from their son and went to her apartment when she was supposed to be at a book club.

While he was looking around, she came home earlier than anticipated and “caught” him. They sat down and had a long talk, something they should have done a long time ago. The next morning the wife talked to her friends, who said it was a crime for the husband to do that. She merely called the police the next day to ask if he could enter her apartment without her permission. The next thing she knew, she was interviewed and her husband was arrested for trespass (a felony) and domestic violence. His conduct was not appropriate, but did it merit DV charges? The rent for the apartment was even paid from a joint checking account.

If most people understood the consequences, they would be much less likely to call the police just to “calm things down.”

Domestic Violence without Violence

There was another case where a wife came home drunk after a night out with her girlfriends. In this situation, she got angry with her husband, and a verbal argument ensued. The parties were going through a divorce but still living in the same house. As they were arguing, the wife tripped over the carpet fell into the husband and then fell to the ground, banging her knee. She also bumped into her husband causing him to fall down. As they continued to argue, she called the police to calm the situation down.

The police arrested her and charged her with domestic violence. With the pending divorce case, a domestic violence charge could have seriously impacted her case. Fortunately for her, the husband thought the whole situation was ridiculous and didn’t use the charges to his advantage.

However, I have seen several cases where domestic violence charges have been used to gain an advantage in a divorce. With a DV charge, there is always a protection order that prohibits the other party from returning to the house. This gives the alleged victim automatic possession of the house and an advantage concerning the children.

Unfortunately, when there’s a domestic violence charge involved, the Court will not allow a couple to attend counseling together. Instead, they mandate that the person with the charges first attend anger management counseling, and, only after that’s resolved, then the couple is allowed to attend counseling.

Domestic violence can be a confusing and tricky topic, especially when there’s technically no “violence” involved. If you are dealing with a domestic violence charge, don’t go it alone – seek out legal counsel.

Call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation.