Vail law: Colorado’s domestic violence statutes
VAIL, Colorado -Sadly, love and scorn, affection and bitterness, tenderness and violence are all too often flip sides of the same coin. Colorado’s domestic violence statutes are meant to buffer the repercussions of relationships gone bad when those repercussions tend towards violence, harassment or intimidation.Colorado law states 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 which are recognized to be special and especially subject to inflammatory and often irrational behavior. Violence between intimates is much more common that violence among strangers.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 violence against a person with whom the actor is or has been intimate to include “other crimes” when used to exert improper control against the person or to extract revenge or mete out punishment. Accordingly, violence or its threat against the person with whom the actor is or has been intimate is not the only measure of domestic violence.What, then, constitutes an “intimate relationship?” 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 brush stroke of protected relationships is intended to be broad and recognizes the heat and passion (and too often retribution and violence) that intimate relationships oftentimes fuel. Husbands, wives, former husbands and wives, lovers, boyfriends, girlfriends, former couples and the parents of a child are all included beneath the umbra of the law.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, the crime may amount to assault, harassment or some similar charge. If instead, I threaten my wife, 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.How then does a violation of a domestic law affect the underlying crime? 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 domestic violence, he or she may in addition also be 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. The court may order a treatment evaluation to be conducted prior to sentencing.The domestic violence statutes appreciate that with intimate relationships, passions often run at a fever pitch and that when people are invested in intimate relationships, sometimes reason is often checked at the door. The statutes appreciate the uniqueness of such relationships and the propensity for those relationships to fan the flames of violence and they exist to try and tame the conflagration.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 awryRohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. His practice areas include: business and commercial transactions, real estate & development, family law divorce and civil litigation. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.