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Vail Law: Here’s a look at Colorado domestic violence laws

Rohn Robbins
Vail, CO, Colorado

Cops in Vail, Colorado and elsewhere will tell you that domestic violence is one of most ubiquitous and difficult crimes with which they deal.

Sadly, love and scorn, affection and bitterness, tenderness and violence, it seems, are all too often sides of the same coin. Colorado’s domestic violence statutes are meant to buffer the consequences of relationships gone bad when those repercussions tend toward 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. The statute 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 than violence between strangers.



The law goes on to state 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, domestic violence includes crimes other than physical violence when used to exert improper control against the person or to extract revenge or mete out punishment.

What, then, constitutes an “intimate relationship?” The law defines such a relationship as 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.”

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Again, the brush stroke or protected relationships is intended to be broad and recognizes the heat and passion (and too often retribution and violence) that intimate relationships often fuel. Husbands, wives, former husbands and wives, lovers, boyfriends, girlfriends, former couples and the parents of a child even where, except for the child, the relationship was otherwise “casual.”

What should be noted is that domestic violence, although a separate crime, is based on an underlying offense. 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 offense affect the underlying crime? In addition to any sentence which may be imposed upon a person for the underlying criminal offense, where the person is also found to have committed domestic violence, he or she may be independently sentenced for the domestic violence charge.



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 checked at the door. The laws exist to try to 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 awry.

Rohn 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 and development, homeowners associations, family law and 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 by e-mail at robbins@colorado.net.


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