What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Colorado?

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In 1994, NFL star OJ Simpson stood trial for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. In the end, he was acquitted, but not before the nation watched, theorized, and argued over the case. [You should also note that Simpson was found responsible in a civil case.]

Before she was murdered, Nicole called the police on OJ numerous times, claiming domestic abuse. Each time, the police told her, “This is a family matter, call your divorce lawyer.” She had no legal protection against a man she claimed was violent against her. After her untimely death, domestic violence proponents came out of the woodwork, clamoring for a broader definition of domestic violence so that the police would actually have some recourse in situations like Nicole’s.

Since then, the definition of domestic violence has been significantly broadened in Colorado. Now, in 2023, if there’s probable cause for domestic violence, the alleged perpetrator must be arrested. The person cannot bond out before appearing before a Judge. That means the person is likely to spend a minimum of one night in jail. When that person is released, the Court must issue a protection order prohibiting the person from living at home.

The definition of domestic violence reads:

  1. "Domestic violence" means an act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship. "Domestic violence" also includes any other crime against a person, or against property, including an animal, or any municipal ordinance violation against a person, or against property, including an animal, when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.

Domestic violence is defined as so much more than violence against a romantic partner. In some situations, this is a good thing because it protects victims. In other cases, in my opinion, it’s too far-reaching and can be used as a weapon in Court against people who don’t deserve it.

When Domestic Violence Doesn’t Involve Violence

I heard about a contentious divorce case. In this situation, the wife had been involved in an extramarital affair, and when the husband found out, he kicked her out of the house. He was the breadwinner of the family, and he also managed all the money while she took care of the house and raised the kids.

She moved out, got settled in a nearby apartment, and they prepared to file for divorce. At that point, he entered her apartment without permission. Although joint funds were used to pay for the apartment, this was considered a trespass. While many people can disagree with his conduct, most non-attorneys would not classify his conduct as domestic violence.

As soon as her lawyers found out, they contacted the authorities and raised claims of domestic violence. Even though the husband hadn’t laid a hand on her or sent any kind of threatening messages, law enforcement arrested him for domestic violence. When he appeared in Court, a protection order was issued that prevented him from returning to the house. When the wife subsequently requested that the charges be dropped, the DA refused. He legally couldn’t drop the charges, even though the wife didn’t want to pursue them — she knew that those charges would affect her husband’s ability to work, pay child support, maintenance, and their entire family would be negatively impacted. But the D.A. took the position that he had a prima facie (on its face) case and could not dismiss the case.

Moving forward in the case, which involved navigating parenting agreements, the husband was at a huge disadvantage because he had a fresh domestic violence charge on his record. Not to mention that there was then a protection order against him, meaning that he couldn’t come within a certain distance of his wife. This made everything logistically more complicated, and very frustrating for the whole family.

I’m not sure whether the wife knew that getting a domestic violence charge on his record would give her an advantage in the divorce case, but her attorneys definitely did. More and more, I’m seeing nasty divorce cases in which one party tries to pin domestic violence on the other to gain an advantage. And it works, because the definition of the term is so broad. By way of example, there is a Colorado statute that provides that, if there has been domestic violence, joint decision-making is not in the child’s best interests.

Domestic Violence is a Difficult Charge to Navigate

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, it can have severe and lasting implications. Call our office today at 303-449-1873 to schedule a complimentary consultation and find out if Barre Sakol is the right representative for your case.

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