Vail Law column: Explaining Colorado’s domestic violence statutes
August 29, 2017
Sadly, love and scorn, affection and bitterness, tenderness and violence are all too often flipsides of the same coin. Although, as the author Eric Segal once espoused, "love means never having to say you're sorry," many are the times when love gone bad manifests itself in ways leaving much about which to be sorry. Colorado's domestic violence statutes are meant to buffer the repercussions of relationships gone bad when those outcomes tend toward violence, harassment or intimidation.
In law, "domestic" means pertaining, belonging or relating to a home, hearth or domicile. "Violence," of course, implies the use of force or threat of force. Accordingly, "domestic violence" means force, or the threat of force or intimidation, occurring within the home or within a familial or familial-type relationship.
By statutory definition, Colorado law provides that "'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." It is worth noting that the statute provides that domestic violence equally includes persons with whom the actor is "or has been" intimate. Clearly, it is meant to cover a broad territory of relationships that are recognized to be special and especially subject to inflammatory and often irrational behavior. Violence between intimates is much more common than violence among strangers.
The domestic violence statute goes on to provide that "'Domestic violence' also includes any other crime against a person or against property, or any municipal ordinance violation against a person or against property, 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."
In other words, more than violence is subsumed within the definition of domestic violence, and the definition of proscribed acts may extend beyond the person to whom the conduct is directed to include acts against property of the person and/or violation of municipal ordinances. This second half of the definition "bootstraps" acts other than direct threats or violence to include "other crimes" when such acts are used to exert improper control against the person or to extract revenge or mete out punishment.
The law provides that a relationship is "intimate" when it is one "… between spouses, former spouses, past or present unmarried couples or persons who are both the parents of the same child, regardless of whether the persons have been married or have lived together at any time." Again, the brushstroke of protected relationships is intended to be broad and recognizes the heat and passion that intimate relationships oftentimes fuel.
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What should be noted here is that "domestic violence," although a separate crime, is based upon an underlying offense. First, for example, there must be violence, threat of violence or another underlying offense. Then, if the violence, threat of violence or other offense occurred between intimates, the separate offense of domestic violence arises from and out of it.
If, say, I threaten you with violence, then the crime may amount to assault, harassment or some similar charge. If, instead, I threaten my wife, then the underlying crime will likely be the same but, pursuant to the domestic violent statutes, I will have "bootstrapped" the underlying offense to include a domestic violence charge.
In addition to any sentence that is imposed upon a person for violation of the underlying criminal offense, where the person is also found to have committed a domestic violence offense, he or she also may be "independently" sentenced for the domestic violence charge. Further, he or she shall be ordered to complete a treatment program and a treatment evaluation that conforms with standards adopted by the domestic violence management treatment board as provided by further statute.
When a crime of violence, threat of violence or intimidation is committed in an intimate relationship, it renders a bad situation worse and may subject the bad actor to a bigger bag of woes than he or she had bargained for. A cool head is the watchword in domestic altercations. Otherwise, you may find yourself on the short end of those statutes intended to protect potential victims of passion gone awry.
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, Biddison, Tharp & Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody and divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.