Vail Daily column: Domestic violence in Colorado
April 1, 2014
"You always hurt the one you love.
The one you shouldn't hurt at all …"
— Allan Roberts
Sadly, it is all too true. We often hurt those we care most about. But when the hurt turns physical or abusive, that's where the law steps in.
Let's define our terms; what exactly is domestic violence?
In Colorado, it may be defined as an act, or threatened act, of violence upon a person with whom the accused is (or has been) in an intimate relationship. It is both the violence and the relationship that are key.
Let's say I knock you in the nose. Unless I did so in self-defense or upon some other justifiable cause, I may well be charged with assault. Let's say the nose I poke, though, isn't yours, but is, instead, a lover's. Now I find myself, beside apologetic, remorseful and contrite, in a double mess. Besides assault, most likely I'll be charged with domestic violence as well.
In a sense, domestic violence in this state anyway, is a "bootstrap" charge. In other words, there has to be some underlying wrongful act upon which the "DV" charge will be attached. Simply, there can't be "domestic" violence without violence in the first place.
Of course for the domestic violence charge to "stick," the violence itself must first be proven.
OK, I suppose most folks intuitively get that. But that's not where domestic violence ends. Not only can a DV charge be comprised of violence committed against the one (or, perhaps one of many) that you love, but it can also be affixed like Velcro to instances where one commits a crime in order to coerce, control, punish, intimidate or exact revenge against a person with whom the alleged bad actor is (or has been) intimate.
"Oh baby give me one more chance
To show you that I love you
Won't you please send me back in your heart."
— The Corporation (Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell and Deke Richards)
But what one may not do to win back the girl (or guy, as the case may be) is to do evil to achieve that goal.
I know we're getting musical here and this is, in fact, a serious subject, but as about 99.99 percent of all songs deal with relationships, music is ripe to help our understanding.
You know the Carrie Underwood song?
"I dug my key into the side
Of his pretty little souped-up 4 wheel drive
Carved my name into his leather seat
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights
Slashed a hole in all four tires
And maybe next time he'll think before he cheats."
Uh, no. In Colorado, that would be domestic violence.
Save Your Breath
Also in this state, if one is charged with domestic violence, then it is a guarantee that he or she is going to get an all expense paid trip to the local lock-up. While with most crimes a responding officer is given discretion as to whether or not to arrest (or whether even to charge someone), not so much with domestic violence. If the call is made, the officers show up and probable cause is found, then the suspect must be arrested. "Must" as in no level of pleading, persuasion, recanting or cajoling will be of even the slightest effect. Save your breath. The officer must and will arrest the offending party on the spot and the person will not be offered bond until he has appeared before the court.
It is worth noting too that once the wheels of justice are in motion, as with all crimes, then the reporting party and victim cannot drop charges. The accused is charged with the crime by the state and only the state can determine to drop charges.
Sometimes the addition of "domestic" to a party's violence can have the unwelcomed effect of another sort of "bootstrapping," this time, by the alchemy of law, transmuting what might otherwise be a misdemeanor domestic violence offense to a felony. If the person has had three or more prior domestic violence convictions, then he may be charged the fourth time with a felony as a "habitual offender."
These things have consequences besides whatever irreparable damage one may have done to one's relationship and one's self-esteem. These include, of course, the legal matters; the certainty of a domestic violence evaluation and DV treatment if one either pleas to or is convicted of a DV charge; the likelihood of court costs, fines and potential payment of victim compensation; and a lifetime ban from owning a firearm.
There are resources out there. Although I seldom endorse, a good place to start in Eagle County is with the Bright Future Foundation (www.bright futurefoundation-ec.org).
For your own sake and for the sake of those you love, look into getting help before you blow. Your temper simply isn't worth the hurt and harm it otherwise may cause.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.