Facing domestic violence charges can be a frightening and confusing experience. The uncertainty of what lies ahead, the fear of potential penalties, and the concern over your reputation can feel overwhelming.
This is where experienced domestic violence attorney Christian A. Schwaner comes in. Our team knows that a domestic violence conviction can disrupt your life and jeopardize your future. With over 20 years of legal experience, including time spent as a prosecutor, Christian A. Schwaner knows both sides of the courtroom.
If you’re dealing with a domestic violence charge, don’t face it alone. Contact us today for a free consultation.
What Qualifies as Domestic Violence?
In Colorado, domestic violence is defined as an act or threatened act of domestic abuse upon a person with whom the actor is involved in an intimate relationship. It also includes any other crime used as coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against such person. Here are some common examples of domestic violence:
Physical violence and violent behavior intended to harm or injure another person.
Threats of Violence
Intimidating statements or gestures implying imminent physical abuse.
Persistent and unwanted attention towards someone, causing fear and distress.
Unwanted actions or messages that threaten or intimidate another person. Insults, repeated “hang-up” calls, obscene language, or gestures can all qualify as harassment.
Manipulative behaviors or actions intended to undermine someone’s mental well-being can be considered domestic violence.
An intentional act causing another person to fear imminent bodily harm.
Threatening behavior or actions intended to place another in fear of physical injury.
In the context of domestic violence, this would include taking direct action with the intent to kill another person, former spouse, or intimate partner but failing to complete the act.
Violation of Restraining Orders
Intentionally defying a court order meant to protect another individual by contacting this person directly.
Damaging or destroying the complainant’s property (slicing someone’s tires or breaking a window, for instance).
Confining or detaining someone without the legal authority to do so constitutes false imprisonment in Colorado. Even barring a door might qualify under certain circumstances.
Engaging in unwanted sexual activity, especially involving intimate partners.
Mandatory Arrest Law for Domestic Violence
Colorado law mandates that police must make an arrest if they have probable cause to believe domestic assault has occurred.
The mandatory arrest law is designed to protect potential victims from further harm. However, it can also lead to erroneous arrests and charges based on misunderstandings or false accusations.
When police respond to a domestic violence call, they assess the situation and gather evidence. If the police officer determines probable cause – domestic violence law requires that they make an arrest.
It’s important to remember that a domestic violence accusation does not mean you are guilty. You have the right to defend yourself against these charges.
Domestic Violence Charges Cannot be Dropped
Once domestic violence charges are filed, they cannot be dropped – not even by the alleged victim. The prosecution will generally proceed with the case even if the alleged victim recants their statement or requests that charges be dropped.
This policy is in place to protect victims who may be coerced or intimidated into dropping charges by their abusers. However, it can also lead to unnecessary arrests based on false or exaggerated allegations.
Mandatory Restraining Order Immediately Following Arrest
A mandatory restraining order preventing you from any contact with your partner will be entered immediately following your arrest. Protection orders prohibit those charged with domestic violence cases from contacting the complainant, even through third parties, until it is lifted.
You will be arrested for a second criminal offense if you violate protection orders. You can be convicted of violating a restraining order even if you are proven innocent of the domestic violence crime charges.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Convictions
If you are convicted of a domestic violence offense in Colorado Springs, the penalties may include jail time, fines, mandatory domestic violence treatment programs, probation, and a permanent criminal record.
The specific penalties depend on the severity of the alleged crime, whether it is a first-time or repeat offense, and any aggravating factors.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Domestic Violence Charge
Domestic violence charges can be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the nature and severity of the domestic violence case.
- Misdemeanor charges are less severe but still carry penalties, including up to a year in jail and fines up to $1,000.
- Felony charges are more severe and can result in longer prison sentences and higher fines.
Domestic Violence Charges with Firearms
In Colorado Springs, you could face additional penalties if you’re charged with a domestic violence offense and a firearm is involved.
Federal law prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition. This prohibition applies even if the domestic violence offense is classified as a misdemeanor.
Domestic Violence by Military Personnel
Members of the military who are facing domestic violence charges have unique considerations to consider.
In addition to the civilian legal system, military personnel may be subject to military law under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This can result in dual prosecution, where an individual is tried and potentially punished in both systems.
Furthermore, a domestic violence conviction can have severe career implications for military personnel, including loss of security clearance, demotion, firearms ban, and consequent discharge.
Common Defenses Against Domestic Violence Charges
Here are some common defenses a domestic violence attorney may use in court:
False accusations of domestic violence can occur for various reasons, including anger, revenge, or a desire to gain an upper hand in divorce or child custody proceedings. Your attorney may be able to uncover evidence supporting your innocence if you believe you have been falsely accused.
Lack of Proof
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a domestic violence offense. This is the highest standard of proof in the legal system. If there is insufficient evidence to meet this standard, or if your attorney can cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence, it may be possible to secure an acquittal.
In some cases, what appears to be domestic violence may be an act of self-defense or defense of others. If you protected yourself or someone else from imminent harm, your attorney could argue that your actions were justified under Colorado law.
Violation of Constitutional Rights
If your rights were violated during the arrest or investigation process – for example, if evidence was obtained through an illegal search – we could argue that evidence should be excluded, potentially weakening the prosecution’s case.
A myriad of other potential defenses might be applicable, depending on the specific circumstances of your case. Every case is different, and a skilled domestic violence defense attorney will be able to a wide range of potential defenses.
Domestic Violence Treatment Classes
Between conviction and sentencing, you may be required to undergo an evaluation designed to determine whether a treatment program would be appropriate. Treatment class can range from 24 to 48 classes. After the class, you should be subject to a mandatory evaluation.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
If you are facing domestic violence charges, Christian A. Schwaner is your Colorado Springs domestic violence attorney. With over 20 years of experience in criminal law, Christian Schwaner has the knowledge and insights needed to navigate the complexities of domestic violence cases.
We understand the emotional toll these charges can take, and we are committed to providing legal support every step of the way. We believe in your right to a fair defense and will use every tool at our disposal to ensure the best possible outcome.
What to do after being charged with domestic violence?
Being charged with domestic violence can be an overwhelming experience. Here’s what you should do:
- Stay calm
- Exercise your right to remain silent
- Contact a domestic violence attorney
- Follow all court orders
- Prepare for your defense
Can I clear my record from domestic violence charges?
Expunging or sealing a record in Colorado depends on the nature of the charge and whether there was a domestic abuse conviction. In some cases, it may be possible to clear your record of a domestic violence charge, but this typically requires navigating complex legal procedures. An experienced attorney can guide this process.
What happens if the victim doesn’t want to press charges?
Even if the alleged victim doesn’t press charges or wishes to withdraw them later, the district attorney can still proceed with the case based on other evidence, such as 911 calls or witness statements. This is why it’s crucial to have a domestic violence defense strategy in place, regardless of the alleged victim’s actions.
Will I lose child custody if I am charged with domestic violence?
In some cases, a domestic violence conviction could impact your child custody rights. Colorado courts prioritize the safety and well-being of children, and if there’s evidence suggesting that a child is suffering domestic abuse, restrictions may be placed on visitation or custody. However, every case is unique, and experienced domestic violence attorneys can help you advocate for your parental rights.